My senior year was enhanced by the friendships that I chose to surround myself with. When things at home were a struggle, I was welcomed into the homes of my friends and their families. I would spend hours and hours on the phone, with that cord stretched taut from the hallway to my bedroom. Throughout high school in the ’80s, another primary source of communication was note writing and passing. If I couldn’t use the phone, I’d pour out my heart on a piece of notebook paper and fold it up to be hand-delivered to a friend at school the next morning. We would stuff notes through locker vents and even pass them discreetly, or not so discreetly, during our classes. Bottom line—communication with my friends was a lifeline.
I learned the importance of friendship from my mom. She sought out and cultivated some incredible friendships. Growing up, I would love to ride with her to visit various friends, or walk to any number of her friends’ homes in our tight-knit neighborhood. I would often sit nearby and listen in on the gossip and laughter with a giant smile plastered on my face. There was always so much laughter. My mom brought the fun. Her oldest and dearest friend is my godmother and they grew up in Chicago like sisters and remained close throughout my mom’s entire life. My Aunt Carole spoiled me rotten and I loved every second of every minute in her presence. I still do. What I learned from my mom and her friends is that there is great value in sharing your life.
Another incredible skill my mom taught me was how to host a wonderful party. I could write a book on all of the parties she threw, and the time she spent teaching me how to arrange a tray of crackers, fun napkin displays, how to properly clean an ashtray, and so much more. She was the absolute queen of dinner parties.
For my birthday, I would always have a friend party and a family party with menus of my choosing. My standard fare for friend parties was sloppy joes, orange Jell-o with mandarin slices, potato chips, and chocolate eclair dessert. It was customary in elementary school to invite all of the girls in your class to your birthday party on the day of your birthday. At the end of the school day, with extreme anticipation, all of the girls would walk together to my house for the party. I loved those birthday parties! Junior high parties became slumber parties, and my mom actually threw me lovely dinner parties in high school.
My senior year was no exception, and it is a time I will always cherish. The celebrations began when my sweet friend Michelle hosted a giant surprise birthday party for me at her house. They lived in a gorgeous home with a big wrap-around porch. The night of the party, my friends grabbed me from home and blindfolded me. I was excited and nervous, joyful and terrified. What were these friends up to? We drove for a while and got out of the car. Someone held my hand as I was led up a sidewalk. I could hear hushed voices as I held my breath, wondering what on earth was happening. The memory still takes my breath away. The blindfold was ripped away and a collective, “Surprise!” rang out. Michelle’s porch was full of a huge variety of friends and they were gathered together to celebrate me. I felt the love and support of friends who knew a strong dose of cheer would lift my spirits. (Plus, I’m sure there were several there for a good party and had no idea it was my birthday!)
Gag gifts were the best part of the night with one friend giving me an inflatable Gumby, another ‘borrowing’ a school-issued swimsuit, and the famous Delta Fun guys chipped in their hard-earned resources to buy me a hideous 70’s inspired, polyester, flowered dress from Goodwill. If the purpose of that party was to make me laugh and feel cherished by my friends, the goal was met many times over.
Soon after the surprise party, my mom threw my birthday dinner party. The friends I invited were all thoughtful, caring, and so much fun. They weren’t all necessarily close friends with each other, but they each meant something to me and I am forever grateful to each of them.
Turning 18 was momentous.