So, I have this friend. A really really good friend. She is in fact my best friend, who has been gently “encouraging” me for weeks to post a ‘Throwback Thursday’ picture I’ve been hiding safekeeping on my phone for quite some time. This friend knows I can be quite forgetful and is luckily more than forgiving, sending out positive reinforcement messages every Thursday morning in an attempt to get me to remember. So today, along with that picture, I have another confession to make: I do not even remember the first time I met her.
And no, it’s not because we met in college during some random house party where we bonded over the fact that “OMG WE BOTH LOVE THIS SONG!” or had a “deep” discussion in which we both agreed that Keystone tastes like weird water. I don’t remember because, to be honest, I don’t remember all that much from my fourth or fifth year of existence. And that’s how far back our friendship goes.
I vaguely remember my mom telling my sister and me that a girl, Stephanie, was going to be playing with us for a bit while her dad and my dad worked on some farm project. I don’t remember being introduced or whether we played ‘house’ or barbies that day, but I am fairly certain she arrived perched on the armrest of her father’s tractor, which in my young mind was the country equivalent of arriving in Cinderella’s carriage (seriously, getting to ride on the tractor with your dad was the COOLEST THING EVER back in those days).
Stephanie was a blond haired, blue-eyed bouncing ball of energy who just happened to fall smack dab in middle of the two year age gap between me and my older sister, which was perfect because she never “belonged” to just one of us, as friends at that young age often do. When reflecting back on friendships, most people have a “before we met” and an “after we met,” almost like a B.C. and A.D. of relationships, but with Stephanie, I don’t remember what time looked or felt like before she came around. It’s simply how I grew up—Stephanie has always been my best friend. It’s never been a question, but always a statement of fact; something that hasn’t changed or wavered during the course of 20+ years. To say that Stephanie became an extension of our family wouldn’t be a stretch—it’s not unusual for my mom to ask how her “other daughter” is doing. And I’m never surprised to hear the question phrased that way.
Stephanie spent the better half of 14 years making the two-mile journey between our houses on horseback, sneaking me and Ashley Creed CD’s and Mary Higgins Clark books before we convinced my mom that Creed was actually a Christian artist and Mary Higgins Clark books weren’t too scary for our age. Knowing it was something my sister and I weren’t usually given at home, Stephanie also took it upon herself to make sure we ate mac & cheese every time we came over for dinner, easily cooking us over a hundred Kraft boxes during those childhood years when the cheesy goodness is viewed as the equivalent of a 5-star meal. She would laugh with us, cry with us, play with us, and quite frankly morphed into our life-sized doll, letting Ashley and I bicker over whose turn it was to do her makeup and hair as we reached the pre-teen years. When I first fell in love with taking pictures in my early teens, she was often the subject of many of my first “photo shoots”, always willing to let me drag her outside and bark commands at her like I was some type of fancy creative director as I tried to figure out poses and lighting.
We certainly had a few misguided moments, like that time Ashley and I decided it would be a fabulous idea to give Steph a trendy new haircut while using our trampoline as a makeshift beauty chair, or when we thought it would be sooooo awesome to sneak out of the house at night to go to a friend’s bonfire (disclaimer for my darling mother: don’t worry, it never worked). It’s a mish-mash of memories, and looking back now on how I grew up and who I grew up with, I wouldn’t change a thing.
It’s one of those lifelong friendships that we know is extremely rare but we still forget to appreciate because it’s just what we’ve always known. We’ve been there for each other through all the awkward phases of growing up, through the bad haircuts and crooked teeth, through the teenage years of high school drama and “he said/she said” and all the scariness that comes with graduating and leaving home behind, through college and serious boyfriends and real heartbreaks and all the baggage that accompanies moving on and finally letting go, through cross-country moves and new jobs and new friends and everything in between. It’s the way it’s always been, and it’s the way it will always continue to be.
And here we are, 22 years after she first showed up riding shotgun on her dad’s John Deer tractor. Stephanie now lives in Nashville, while I’ve settled into life on the west coast in Seattle. On average, we see each other only once every two years, but phone calls and texts keep us in touch multiple times a week. Life has continued to move at full speed ahead, and while I know I don’t say “thank you” enough to the girl who has been there through every major moment of success and disappointment in my life, I hope she knows how much I love and appreciate her.
…and I will continue to love and appreciate her, until there are no more boxes of Kraft Mac & Cheese left to make. ; )
Happy Throwback Thursday.