I am participating in ChicagoNow’s Blogapalooza, where all the bloggers in the ChicagoNow community are given a topic and have one hour to write a blog post. Tonight's assignment: "Write about a friend or acquaintance from your childhood with whom you’ve lost touch."
Here's an edited portion of an essay I wrote for the anthology My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends, edited by Stephanie Sprenger and Jessica Smock, about my friend from kindergarten, Jessie, and what happened to our friendship in middle and high school.
In middle school, our tight bond from elementary school was a bit looser. There was more room for the many new people in school, including boys, as well as our different interests. Jessie wasn’t about to join the Science Olympiad Team like I had, a wise social move on her part, and I certainly wasn’t talented enough to be taking extra art classes like she was.
Our friendship seemed to be somehow removed from some of the middle school drama, and I loved that being her partner in crime seemed easier than friendships with the other girls. We moved in different circles and that was okay. I think we were a respite from tween angst for each other.
Eighth grade was a big year for us. She introduced me to the brave new world of boy bands. My parents have her to thank for the fact that my room would soon be covered in posters of New Kids on the Block. She even talked me into to participating in a New Kids lip sync contest held at a bowling alley and aired on local access cable. I remember my mom asking me just why I thought this was a good thing to do. I told her, “Because Jessie’s doing it.”
Sitting next to Jessie in Mrs. Morrow’s pre-algebra class was a highlight of my school day . But when she busted out of her backpack a 5-inch New Kids pin with an easel back and set it up on her desk, I was in awe. It had never occurred to me such an items was made, nor was it possible to bring Joey McIntyre to math class. I watched as Mrs. Morrow raised an eyebrow and went on with class.
I quickly followed suit. When I set up my own button a few days later, Mrs. Morrow sighed at the proliferation of buttons and slightly shook her head, then dove headlong into the world of variables, which I never understood.
Little did I know that other variables, different yet similarly incomprehensible, would come into play into our own relationship. It turns out that neither nine years of friendship nor the shared love of Donny, Danny, Jordan, Joey, and Jonathan were enough to keep us together.
I scanned the high school hallways for her, but didn’t find her. The rivers of people flowing between classes were full of new faces, none of them Jessie’s.
When I did eventually locate her, she was different. Aloof. We tried to talk but had nothing to discuss.
Soon, she was unrecognizable to me. Literally. I had gone the way of the band geeks, and Jessie had become a goth, wearing all black and wearing heavy eyeliner that I would never have the skill to apply. She dyed her shining blonde hair jet black.
The Jessie I remembered was gone, and, just like that, with the start of high school our friendship was over. We didn’t have another significant conversation again. She never made a move, and neither did I.
I often wondered what happened.
High school happened. Different interests happened. Cliques happened. I let them happen.
I never had the fortitude to buck the social system and sit with her at lunch, and even if I had, would she have continued to pass me in the hallways without a word or sign of recognition, as if we hadn't shared 9 years of friendship?
We graduated and both of us moved away, as did my parents, so I rarely make it back to the hometown Jessie and I shared. I’ve heard that Jessie goes by her middle name now, and worked at a salon at one point, which doesn’t surprise me.
My mother has a photograph of me that she took after Jessie had given me a makeover at age 12. She had done my hair and made it big and curly. I had tried and failed for years to achieve that look, and she made it happen in a matter of minutes. She did my make up and I looked like myself, but different.
I remember that when Jessie revealed my makeover to me in the bathroom mirror, I wondered where she had acquired her knowledge, a question I always had about her, and I was grateful for her ability to make me feel special.
Every now and then I think about trying to reach out to her, but my efforts to find her on social media have been unsuccessful. Even if I did, I’m not sure what I say or how it would be received. So, I simply remain grateful for the nine years of childhood friendship that we shared.
I think about her sometimes when I see my daughter and her friends. I think that she feels the same closeness, and I'm grateful that she has them. I wonder what will happen to their relationships when they enter high school next year, and in years beyond that. And I hope that, whether or not they stay in touch, that she has friends now for whom she remains grateful well into adulthood.
You May Also Like: The other posts written on this topic by ChicagoNow bloggers, which you can find them here.
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