We had a spontaneous combustion of friendship when I moved to Idaho from Tennessee and she moved from Cascade to Boise in our junior year of high school. We were such fast friends by early senior year that I referred to her as my sister Sarah. Eventually I didn't bother correcting myself. It felt true.
A couple weeks ago my Sarah came to visit me. We had not seen each other in 14 years, not since the summer after graduation. We jumped and screamed at the sight of each other, and our men laughed. Our children acted like cousins that had never met due to bizarre circumstances, and Sarah and I sat and reminisced that first evening of our reunion.
We talked about the time she made me laugh so hard in an all night diner that the muscles in my face froze, I began to hyperventilate in some panic, and then keeled over due to the loss of oxygen in my brain. We talked about how she always had older boyfriends while I could be found at lunchtime munching peanut M&M's and playing poker with a bunch of sophomore boys. We laughed at how we hunted each other down in the middle of a period near the end of our senior year to tell each other about the C on our English papers (and we thought we would be writers!) We remembered the snowy days when we skipped school, having no money to do anything fun but ditching responsibility anyway, because we thought snow flurries were pretty.
Then there was the adventure of living by ourselves for two months in our senior year. She drove and worked parttime. I joke that I was the stay-at-home one, and I didn't even cook (she doesn't remember us eating at all during the time; I remember eating endless cans of Beans with Bacon soup).To thank her for giving me rides and bringing in money on top of what my parents gave us, I locked her out of the house on a bitterly cold night when she was out late, and she slept in her car with the engine and heater on until our neighbors called the cops. As she tells it, the police knocked on the window loudly, fearing she was dead, and she sat up with blurry and mascara-smeared eyes, assuring them that she was alive but near frozen.
During that time there was also that frightening incident where Sarah in true panic did the best Curly, Three Stooges impersonation I've ever seen. Just home from school one afternoon, Sarah entered the house first. Right behind, I was aware of the danger in a moment, having seen the threat gleaming in his beady black eyes as the small rodent crouched and panted beyond her in the kitchen.
"Sarah," I said as calmly as possible, my body stiff and ready. "Don't move."
The "Why?' as she spun to look at me had barely escaped her lips when my squirrel Okkado leaped upon her back from the kitchen counter. She ran in a small frantic circle (the Curly impersonation) and screamed while my little friend scaled the length of her body, gripping with his claws. I tried to catch him to no avail - they were both whirling so fast - until he sprang from her when he could take the crazy ride no more. She bolted down the hall in terror, and I heard an ear-splitting bang as her bedroom door slammed to. It took me at least two hours to calm Okkado enough to lure him back into his floor-to-ceiling cage with a handful of nuts. It took even longer to calm Sarah, who is no animal person she admits. She stayed in the back room the whole time, only rarely peeling the door back an inch to call, "Is he in yet?" "No," I yelled back again and again, and again and again the door was sealed with due speed.
Good times. Well, at least times, anyway. Time together for sure friends is precious in most circumstances. Even when squirrels attack. Or at least when you're looking back on the time when your best friend's squirrel attacked.
On the second day of Sarah's visit to Arizona, we knew we had to do one very important thing before we parted. I hunted it down, the movie I had bought several years ago specifically because the introduction to it was a gift from my Sarah and one which will always remind me of her. Ah the marvelous Funny Girl, the Barbra Streisand hit musical. Like old times, we admired her voice, her comedic timing, her beautiful long white hands and her outstanding nose as we enjoyed our skip down memory lane. We laughed and then got sad again when Nick Arnstein took his wrong turn, made his fatal decision for pride against love. We shushed the boys in the room when the finale "My Man" commenced. When it was over, they all applauded enthusiastically, not because Babs had sung her heart out but because she had sung her last note, and we marveled again at the blindness of men, because Streisand is obviously one of the most original, beautiful and talented women ever to walk the planet.
And that's my Sarah, too, a thoroughly original and lovely woman - "a bagel on a plate of onion rolls" - one who taught me a great deal about being kind first and striving to be nonjudgmental, one who taught me about strength and resilience, who became like a fourth daughter to my parents. Someone who dreamed and schemed with me about how unusual our lives would be, and someone to laugh with now about all the usual but mostly blessed paths our lives have taken thus far.
Sarah and I are alike and different, of course, but from that first day we met in an uptight Boise high school that had prison-like slits for windows, there was that irresistible pull of friendship. Some natures are meant to bond. We had a mere two years to build that bond, and it has held during 14 years of absence.
I missed her when she left after our visit, but all that evening as I wandered around my home, belting out in mock-Barbra style on an almost endless reel, "Oh, my man I love him so!/ He'll never know/ All my life is just despair.../ But I don't care!", I had the comfort of thinking of her and of our extraordinary and enduring friendship.