As she sat on the hot, sticky bus seat, with a shard of torn vinyl poking her in the back of her thigh, Wendy reached down to the pile of books on the floor between her seat. There, tucked in between her Serendipity literature book and social studies textbook, was the book she’d just started a few days earlier: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. She picked up the book and became so engrossed in reading about Kimberly, Janie, Mavis, Gretchen and Nancy feeling each other’s backs to check if they were wearing bras, that she barely noticed the new girl sitting across the aisle from her.
“We must—we must—we must increase our busts!” the girls chanted. “Do it thirty-five times a day and I promise you’ll see the results,” Nancy told us.
And that’s when Wendy felt a tap on her left shoulder. She turned around and saw it was the new girl, that cute, freckle-faced Nicole who’d just moved here and was in Wendy’s sixth-grade class. Wendy didn’t know much about her, other than that she was Mormon, which, to Wendy, meant that she was really nice and didn’t drink Coke. And even though Nicole was the new girl in class, she was already sticking up for Denise, the chubby girl who got picked on a lot and smelled kinda bad.
“Are you reading that book?” Nicole asked Wendy, in a tone that implied dismay.
“Um, well, yeah, I just started it,” said Wendy, adjusting her thick glasses that were sliding down her sweaty nose.
“That’s a dirty book!” exclaimed Nicole, pointing her finger at the cover. “I can’t believe your parents would let you read it!”
“It is?” said Wendy, acting dismayed herself but full well knowing that it was about bras, boobs, boys and periods. “Well then I’m not gonna read it!” she said, also full well knowing she would devour the rest of it beneath her covers with a flashlight later that night.
That day was the beginning of what would become a lifelong friendship between Wendy and Nicole, who were B.F.F.’s before the term was even cool. (Actually, I think we called ourselves B.F.A.’s then, but whatever.)
Fast-forward to 32 years later to today, when I would like to wish my B.F.F./B.F.A. a very happy birthday!
I will never forget that moment on the hot, smelly bus that day, as it was the beginning of a truly wonderful, lifelong friendship. From that day on, we were an instant pair, always Nicole & Wendy, Wendy & Nicole, never one without the other. For years, everyone called us “Laverne & Shirley,” and we even dressed like them for the Halloween dance in eighth grade. We won .45 records of “Another One Bites the Dust” and “Whip It.” That tells you how long ago it was.
Throughout the years, we remained side by side through all the stuff that Margaret herself went through: boobs, bras, periods, boys. Later, college would separate us, there would be marriages and a divorce, job changes, health issues, moves and babies who are now kids.
Oddly enough, both of us ended up having twins. When I had mine, she was a single woman in a high-powered career and she flew out from Utah to “help” me. (She knows why “help” is in quotes. Like I said, she was a single woman in a high-powered career in those days, and didn’t quite get the hands-on mommy thing yet.) When she had hers, I flew out to California to help her. Having the advantage of having been there and done that, I hope I was of some help to her. I will never forget that night that we sat on the floor of the darkened nursery, sometime around the 2 a.m. feeding, each of us holding a baby.
“How am I going to do this?” she sobbed, bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived.
“You will. You just will,” I said, knowing exactly what she meant and exactly how she was feeling.
And she has. And excellently, too. She is a wonderful mother with an enviable amount of patience and energy.
Sadly, we don’t get to see each other nearly often enough, due to our full and busy lives, five kids and 798 miles between us, plus a bad economy. Yet, we still manage to check in with each other on a regular basis. We have an understanding that we are always allowed to freely brag about our kids’ accomplishments, without fear of being thought of as braggy, or bitch about our sisters (she has three, I have two) or parents without fear of being thought of as bitchy.
We always thought we were each going to marry surfers and live in beach houses right next door to each other.
Yeah, that happened.
I married an engineer and live in the desert; she married an IT guy and lives in Northern California. She does live near the beach, so at least one of us followed through.
Come to think of it, we still talk about all of the same things we did back in those Judy Blume days: boobs, boys, bras and periods—just in a different way now.
One thing that hasn’t changed: We still have the same taste in books. Often, one of us will mention a book, and the other will say, “Oh, I just read that!” One time when she came out to visit and I picked her up from the airport, I reached not for her when she got off the plane, but for the book in her hand, as it was it was the same one I was reading at the time.
Last year, she mailed me some stuff of hers that her dad found in the attic, including some of our old notes and the very book that began our friendship. After inhaling the yellowed pages to infuse my mind with memories, I gave it to my own daughters, who were in sixth grade at the time. I will probably send it back to Nicole when her daughter is in sixth grade. (But I kind of don’t want to part with it.)
Now that I’m thinking about it, how did that “dirty book” end up in your parents’ attic? And how did you know it was a dirty book if you hadn’t read it?
You so read it, didn’t you?
Happy, happy birthday. One of these days, we’ll celebrate it together.
When we’re old ladies, living in our old beach houses with our old men husbands.
Passing our dirty books to each other.