let’s skip the middle school years in my little salute to 40 women who have made these 40 years fly by doe me... please let’s skip some years. those middle school years were not kind to me. now when i drop my cutie daughter off at her middle school everyday and i see some GORGEOUS girls at that school (including my daughter and her friend from down the street that rides with us everyday). but when i look back at my middle school photos, i see braces and pimples and ridiculous clothes that i know my mother picked out for me. i see no beauty, i see lots of bangs, i see lots of braces, i see lots of boxy tops and really HIGH waisted jeans and i had a pear shaped figure and was doing myself NO favors there folks....
so let’s not even get those photos out of the box, in fact, let’s bury them at the bottom of the box. let’s move on to high school. still lots of bangs (curled nice and tight with a tiny little curling iron) but at least i was feeling a little better about myself. in fact i was feeling SO nice and friendly that the summer before my freshman year, i decided to call the front office at my small private school and inquire about the new girls coming into the school as freshman. armed with their phone numbers, i called them all (i think there were 5 of them) and welcomed them to school. i asked if they had any questions and described in detail what i would be wearing the first day of school so that they could locate me and we could be best friends forever.
i struggle to discern my real motivation behind this burst of kindness. in part, i am sure i was a bit empathetic to a girl coming into a private school where most of the students had been together all of their lives. another part of me knows that i also was always searching for that “bosom friend” a la diana berry to anne shirley. and since i had been in that private school for 9 years so far and had no best friend, i think i wanted to have a head start going into high school.
i would actually continue this “dialing for friendship” practice through high school. i was the self appointed welcome wagon. i had been VERY painfully shy through elementary school and middle school and this was the first sign of things to come. i was stepping out of myself a bit and enjoyed the process. previously i had this phobia of talking on the phone to people that i didn’t know, but i was able to get over that and chat with the new girls every year.
i remember thinking very critically about the kind of girl i wanted to be... and i wanted to be a girl who called new girls and welcomed them and reached out for friendship instead of waiting for it to appear. looking back this was a major step for me in becoming the woman that i am today, the woman who makes friends with the cashier at publix and her mailman.
ok, as much as i have enjoyed this walk through lea’s psyche... this really is about some other woman.
it is about one of the girls that i called. the one who would become my best friend through high school. her name is fran and she still lives in tallahassee and actually teaches at the same school that i welcomed her to lo those many years ago. my welcoming skills are legendary (in my own mind).
fran is a great friend and most of my current friends in tallahassee fall into two categories... people i am actually related to OR friends that fran introduced me to. really she knows EVERYONE in town. could be because her dad was the mayor for a while. he also owned the local wendy’s restaurant and she forgave me for the time my mom was driving us gals somewhere and my mom started trashing wendy’s hamburgers.
fran has the BEST parties. she has the really competitive ornament exchange at christmas time. it is so popular that there are several gals there who don’t even celebrate christmas YET they compete for ornaments. when a jewish girl steals a santa claus ornament from a buddist... now that is a good party.
fran used to host the BEST recipe party (she did it for 7 years before i moved to town, so i was able to be the REIGNING champion for only the last three years. she stopped after 10 years). the recipe party went like this...
you gave her a copy of 3 recipes and then you made one of the recipes for the party and brought it. she made a recipe book out of all the recipes that were sent in. you tasted everything that was brought to the party and voted on your favorites. the grand prize winner received an ENTIRE meal of your choosing made by fran and delivered to your house one night. what a deal!
of course i won, was there ever a question with my entries named “lea’s pie of popularity” or “toots hot bacon swiss dip”? i learned quickly that the more sugar and butter and cream in a dish... the higher the chances were that i was going home with the prize! i am a fast learner... i am also a fat learner for those same reasons...
the best part of fran’s parties is her extensive guest list. you know how most people have friends that are JUST LIKE THEM? not fran, her parties are a mix of ages, political parties, religious groups, income levels, and stages of life. really, it is a fruit basket turnover (which is a dish i never made for the party, not enough sugar or butter). that is what makes fran so fun, she is a friend to everyone and she loves to entertain. i don’t know why we ever became friends, we have nothing in common...
so a big thank you to fran... first for answering my phone call, and then for fulfilling my friendship needs through high school, and continuing to be my friend even to this day. for the way you cultivate friends for every walk of life and keep on introducing them to me. but most of all for most likely cheating and making me the winner of the recipe contest three years in a row. and finally for loving the ornaments i bring every year to the ornament exchange (except for miss franny, but really i know that deep down you loved that chubby octopus ornament named after you).