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Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

So, the high school reunion.  If you’re anything like me, you resist the idea.  Maybe even dig your heels in at the thought, the sound.  Relive awkward teenage years with people you haven’t spoken to in a decade?  Oy!  No thanks.  But then Erica and Erin, my best friends in and since high school, started to talk about going.  So I reconsidered.  As I said before, without both of them at my side as I walked into that room, I don’t think I could have actually walked into that room.  They are, and always have been, two of my strongest pillars whether it was when my dad died or I went through graduate school, from down the street to across the country, they’ve been there. (Sidenote: There is another person I’d liked to have had there, but she was in Arizona)

Erin came over to my mom’s early, because despite the three months that have passed, my mother still hadn’t seen Erin’s daughter Sophia.  And as her aunty, well I’ll see her or Erica’s son any chance I get.  Here’s a photo of me and the sleeping Sophie.  I’d say I have a magic touch but hey, she’s three months old.  She sleeps a lot.

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We brought the baby to Erin’s mother-in-law and then, we got ready.  Erica came over and together, the three of us headed to dinner.  It was there that we caught up with each other, and had a pre-reunion drink.  Nerves got the better of us.  Some more than others.  I was somewhere in the middle of the nerves continuum.  Then we headed to the reunion with alerts for everyone to be on–make sure my hair doesn’t flip weird, tell her if her lipstick needs reapplying, let me know if my shirt gets bunched up.

We parked the car, walked into the bar where the reunion was being held, and headed up the stairs to the party room where I had spied red and gold balloons in the windows.  Erica and I had discussed decorations and I called it–of course it would be the flashing gold and red of Sibley High.

We checked in with two girls from the class of ’00 who apparently left their sense of humor at home or just naturally felt too good to be woman-ing our tables.  I turned to wait for Erica and Erin to check in and faced a roomful of my past.  Ok, not really.  Just a whole lot of people I hadn’t seen in a decade.

And then I turned back to say something to Erin and saw someone coming up the stairs–my good friend in high school, A.  She was probably the person I had wanted to see the most.  She’s that friend you always wonder about–what happened to her–and miss.  We caught each others eye as she got to the top of the stairs and with girly squeals we hugged.  This was the first of many girly squeals “Augh!” and hugs.

Then came the requisite “Hi, ______.  What have you been up to for the last 10 years?  Where are you living?” conversations, many times over.  And we’d wax on about marriages, kids, school, careers, where we’re going, where we’ve been. And it?  Was fun.  I think the vodka did help.

It’s true what they say.  At a reunion, for the most part, you talk to who you talked to in high school.  You hang out with who you hung out with.  I think it makes sense.  You spent many years with them, so of course you’re most interested in their life-since-high-school story.  The one surprising element to me was how much time was spent with people I went to Catholic grade school with, who maybe we drifted some in the big public high school.  We were bonded through not only adolescence, but childhood.

It was good catching up.  It was suprising to see just how many people remembered me, or knew me in the first place.  I spent a good amount of high school feeling invisible and unknown.  But now that I think about it, unless you had some irrefutable proof that people knew who you were–because you were homecoming or prom royalty, or class president, or a star athlete–we all probably felt that way.  In fact, even those with that proof probably did.  That’s what being a teenager is all about.

I also got quite a few compliments from people who’d known me then, who’d known me before my cheerleading days and had known the chubby girl with glasses and an unfortunate perm.  There’s nothing like going to your high school reunion and hearing that you look amazing.  But I digress as I feel my cheeks flush (not really, I don’t blush actually but I imagine if I did, I would right now).

We ended up staying later than we’d planned.  Always a good sign, I’d say.  I left with promises to keep in touch, promises I intend to keep.  And , since I already posted a picture of my friends and I going to the reunion, here’s one of us at graduation.

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Maybe you can’t go home again, but you can find some comfort there–even with the passing of time.

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Yesterday, my oldest friend in the world (not that of all my friends she is literally the oldest, but our friendship is the oldest) left me a voicemail announcing that she is having a baby girl; I will be having a niece at the end of August.  She and her husband have gone through a lot to have this baby.  And I’m thrilled for them, and to once again be an aunty.

But there’s a part of me that just can’t believe it.  This is the same girl who bounced over to my group of friends at the first dance at our new high school.  We came from the tiny parochial school and knew hardly anyone.  She came from the big public junior high, and somehow had met my friends.  As high school progressed, I was pulled away from the Catholic school kids, but she and I quickly became, and stayed, best friends.

So when I think of her, I can’t help but see the girl who bounced over that September and the following Monday, in science class said “I’m Erin, by the way.”  This is the same girl I had sleepovers with, where we watched cheesey movies and ate junk.  This is the same girl I wrote notes to, which we’d exchange in the halls in between classes, and read as our teachers droned on.  This is the girl who had permanent shotgun in my car, and a regular ride to school.  The girl I shared a locker with for two years and who I only ever got into one fight with, just because someone else was instigating it.

But that was more than 10 years ago.  And since then, we stood up together in our other friend Erica’s wedding, we laughed a lot, she came to the hospital when my dad died, I went to her wedding, I offered my shoulder as she and her husband tried, and tried, and tried to have a baby–the one thing she always wanted, the one thing that, in those 14 years of friendship never, ever changed.

When I was home in April, I saw my nephew.  He’s Erica’s son.  He will be two in July, and I sat there and watched him run around and try to tell me…something, I couldn’t believe how much he’d grown.  Or how much his mom and I have grown.  She, along with Erin, is one of my oldest friends.  We met in ninth grade, economics class where I thought she was too cool to want to be my friend; I later found out she thought I was too smart to want to be hers.  Lessons in first impressions and judgements learned.

We became closer at the end of school.  But it once it started to happen, it happened quickly.  When Erin and I stood up at her wedding, I was the maid of honor.  It was my job to guard the rings all morning “Cheryl do you have the rings?”  “Yes, they’re in my bag where they were five minutes ago.  See?” I’d proclaim as I held two blue, velvet jewelry boxes up in the air.  I can’t help thinking of her as that young bride.  Or of us giggling in her bed room, gossiping and watching movies.  I still see her, at 14, writing “Funky Chicken” on my yearbook and doodling silly doodles.  Dropping everything at work to come to the hospital when my dad died.  Taking road trips to Duluth, or Iowa to visit Erin. 

Yet, here she is, with an almost two-year old.  When did he get so old?  When did we get so old?  When did our lives shift from Algebra tests and cute boys, passing notes and high school dances to paying bills and raising kids and establishing careers? 

I love my life.  I love almost everything about what brought me here.  Because even the hard stuff–the horrible first college, my dad dying, losing friendships–made me who I am today.  Sometimes though, I just like to pause for a moment and maybe even go back, just for a bit, to the giggling carefree us.

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Now see, what I did there was combined my new title theme with my old one.  Anybody got the reference?  You might not.  Although I expect one of you to fully grasp it by the end of the story. And on to the post…

My mother and I are planning a trip to northern California.  We love wine and are very excited.  This on top of another fab trip I’m planning to go be fabulous in New York.  All this trip planning, got me to remembering family trips of old. 

My family were the summer vacationers.  Every year we went somewhere.  Even when we couldn’t really afford it, we’d head up to Duluth or over to the Wisconsin Dells.  Later the trips grew more–Disney World, Boston, Denver.  Other than the Magic Kingdom, they were family road trips.  Yeah…enter the teen years and exit those excursions.

The first of the annual vacations was in 1984.  That summer I was four, my sister was eight and we loaded up the family car for our annual trip to Grandma Rose’s up, up, up in Lake of the Woods County.  This is the real northern Minnesota, up on the Canadian border.  Which reminds me, don’t ever let anyone tell you Brainerd is northern Minnesota.  It is actually, quite literally, central to the state. 

This year was different.  Because the family didn’t stop in tiny Baudette, Minnesota.  We kept going right over that border and into Manitoba.  And we kept going to…Winnipeg.  At a young age, I was already an international traveller.

You know how when you’re young, things kind of blur together?  I remember being four, but don’t always have clear or distinct memories of specific things.  This is what I remember about Winnipeg:

It seemed really far.  And since Lake of the Woods was a seven hour drive, Winnipeg must be fairly far from Minneapolis, especially for a four year old.  For this reason, Canada seemed very exotic what with it being a different country and all. 

We went on a train ride on something called The Prairie Dog Central.  I am pretty sure it was a restored or replica of an early 1900’s train.  I remember sitting in my chair, lots of sunlight pouring through the windows and playing in the aisles with my sister.  I remember thinking the bathroom was icky.

The only other distinct thing I remember is being in the indoor pool area of the hotel.  I was standing by my mom’s lounge chair when my sister came up to us, very upset.  “Mom, I just drowned in the pool!” she exclaimed.  My mother looked at her and calmly reminded her that she did not drown in the pool.  “If you had drowned in the pool you wouldn’t be standing here right now.  You almost drowned, but you’re ok now.” 

She proceeded to calm my sister down and assure her that everything was ok.   My little four-year-old mind puzzled over what my mom said as I headed to the wading pool and then I understood that drowning was permanent.  And that might explain why I am so exact with my words.  It also explains why, in grad school, the distinction made to us budding reporters that one is not strangled to death–one who is strangled is dead–made me giggle.

So there you have it Winnipeg.  In my mind, you are forever my first traveling adventure, the city of trains, and where my sister “drowned.”

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Most people seem to have a love affair with Target.  While I love it myself, I’m not so sure I would call it an affair.  You see, the Target in my hometown was there as long as I could remember it.  (It has since been torn down and replaced with a bright, shiny SuperTarget).   In fact, it was there as long as my mother could remember it.   Which pretty much means before she married my father and that was a good four years prior to my arrival in the world. 

So, it stands to reason that my first trips to the land of bullseyes were, in fact, in utero.  From the womb it welcomed me.  I accepted.  To me, the love I have for Target is more like that of a family member–it’s always been there–than an affair, which would be newer, fresher.  Target has always been there for me.  And it’s only let me down once.

When I was about 11 years old, my mom and I went on a fairly routine trip to Target.  And for whatever reason, I was given a treat that day.  Oh who am I kidding? I’m sure it was because I was always such a charming, well-behaved child.

I opted to try Target newest offering at the snack bar–frozen yogurt.  Remember the early 90’s when fro-yo was a newer tasty treat?  Being me, I went for chocolate, with coconut sprinkled on top.  The coconut sat in a little plastic tub, right next to the sprinkles and candies.  I happily skipped off to find my mother at the checkouts, enjoying my treat.  Except for one thing–the coconut was really dry, sitting out in the open like that.  It was kind of scratchy.

I offered my mom a bite, who felt the same thing.  Later she said it almost felt like knives going down her throat.  Off we headed to home, where we proceeded to unpack our purchases and I proceeded  to feel an irritation in the back of my throat.  It felt like it was scratched or something.  I kept trying to figure out what was going on back there, and finally went to the bathroom mirror armed with a flashlight. 

There, protruding from my tonsil, was a little coconut flake.  As my dad and sister tried to help my dislodge it, and I ate bananas, bread and drank water trying to force it out, my mother called Target, not because we are litigious people, but to tell them they might want to think about their coconut storage.  Instead, she was told to take me to the ER and have them bill Target for the trouble.  Score one for the bullseye.

Want to make people laugh?  Walk into an ER and calmly explain that your daughter has a piece of coconut stuck in her throat.  Oh yeah,  guaranteed laughs and “You’re a nutter” looks.  Yet my mother persisted and finally, I was on a gurney as a doctor used a looong pair of tweezers to pluck the coconut out. 

“It IS a piece of cococut,” he exclaimed, holding up a not-so-shrivled piece tinged with blood.  My mother glared at him.  The coconut had been so dry, it shrank.  As it sat in my mouth and was prodded with water, it had expanded. 

The next time we went back to Target, the coconut for the fro-yo was in a canister, covered.  You can’t say they don’t learn from their mistakes.  My mother never heard about the bill or had any trouble.  That’s the way a good Minnesota company rolls. 

As for me, well I still love frozen yogurt, coconut and, even more so, Target.

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Daddy Issues

Amber’s post has inspired me to share a story from my younger years. I’m sure you all think I am obsessed with stories about me as a child. What can I say, I amuse even myself.

Every year, and to this day, my childhood house got some major Christmas-ification. When we were little, the decorations were more apt to be the things my sister and I made in school, or for fun. Or the less expensive decorations my parents bought in the beginning of their marriage and held onto, either for sentimental or economic reasons.

Among these decorations was one that my mother made, and still comes out each year. It was a two-dimensional nativity scene, that she, through various cut up patterns of felt, had created. In the center stands Mary, with the baby Jesus in front of her. Ironically, baby Jesus is sitting up in his manger, smiling and waving. But that’s not what bothered me. A star straight above them beams downward. Surrounding them are three kings, a shepherd and even some sheep.

The one thing missing from the scene is Joseph.

As a child, this disturbed me. The thought that Joseph had left his family, for whatever reason, and at such a momentous occassion worried me. And even at that age, I was so literal and had grown up believing the Christmas story to be fact, not faith, that the absence of this seminal figure, whose presence the nuns and priests insisted upon, was troubling.

“Where’s Joseph?” I asked in my small voice.

“I don’t know,” my mother said, always one to be honest and not exactly sugar-coat with me. “He’s just not there.”

“But why not?” I countered. “Where did he go?”

Being part of a parenting set to give an honest answer (thunder was never angels bowling in heaven for me, it was always clouds and weather) she simply said, “He wasn’t part of the pattern I used to make this.”

“But why not?” I would persist.

And so it went. Day after day. “Where’s Joseph?” I asked again and again. Until finally my mother, human being that she is, snapped. “I don’t know! He’s in the bathroom!”

“Oooooh!” I cried with understanding, totally accepting her answer, as children will do.

And from then on, I’d pass the scene and nod my head knowingly. Yep, Joseph’s in the potty.

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Many of my high school memories are marked by cheerleading. If they aren’t actual games or practices, or gatherings afterwards then they are of being with my friends who were cheerleaders, pep rallies, or wearing the “flashing gold and red” of Sibley High.

After two and a half years of cheering, things become ingrained and recent trips down memory lane have shown me that I can still do the routine to our school song (and I still know the school song), and various cheers. One thing I honestly never understood though is why cheerleaders spell things so much. But I digress.

I’ve written about cheerleading before. I had fun doing it, but I wasn’t a die-hard, taking it too seriously. Cause I knew that except for our families, the people in the stands weren’t there to see us, they were there to see a soccer or basketball game. And that was ok with me. I never leaped in to say that cheering (at least the cheering we did) was uber-athletic. I felt that the presence of my lazy butt on the squad proved otherwise.

But cheerleading was a part of me, a part of my high school experience. It was fun. I liked wearing bright colors and yelling.  And to be honest, I’ve found that the ability to project my voice, as cheerleaders need to do, has come in quite handy in my life.  I liked taking the bus to sports events. I loved my friends and the fun we had. I look back at cheerleading and remember a lot of laughter and good times and, well…cheer!

For some reason people seem really surprised to find out I cheered. I guess I don’t come off as the type. And recently I realized they may have been a big part of the draw for me. The girl who, in junior high, was voted “Smartest,” “Best Scientist,” “Best Mathematician,” and “Most Likely to Become President.” A girl whose own father told her she wouldn’t make the squad. Shedding that persona probably made me all the more likely to embrace something new.  And the knowledge that I had that courage and ability just makes the memories all that much sweeter to me.

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V-I-C-T-O-R-Y! That’s the Warrior battle cry!

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The Ann Girls

Today I am driving through Wisconsin, on my way back to Minnesota for one reason: it’s my nephew’s birthday. And that one reason stems from an extremely important relationship, two of them, actually. We’re the Ann Girls.

I met Erin when I was 14 years old. I was at the homecoming dance with friends of mine from grade school, and she came over. I can still see her jumping up and down, her blond hair bouncing around. And the following Monday, we realized we were in the same science class. So, we introduced ourselves.

Erin was my best friend throughout high school, and everyone knew it. We were different people, but we still clicked and stayed friends. Erin had permanent shotgun in my car. She was the only person I picked up every morning to take to school. We had countless sleepovers filled with movies and junk food. And other friends came and went, but our friendship was constant.

Junior year I was assigned a locker in the worst possible location so Erin and I shared hers. And we liked doing it so much, we did it again senior year, even though is wasn’t “necessary” any more. But it worked out well, cause Erin’s last name began with an “E,” and so did Erica’s. And before long, she was a BFF too.

I met Erica in 9th grade economics. I thought she was cool, too cool to be friend. I later found out that she thought I was smart, too smart to be hers. It wasn’t until the end of 11th grade that we got to know each other better, and 12th grade until we hung out. But by the end of the year, the three of us were what I dubbed “The Ann Girls,” because we all share a middle name.

Erica lived further away. She was on the outskirts of the school district and really other schools were closer to her. She could always make me laugh. When I think of her and our friendship, giggling leaps to mind. Junior year she got pre-engaged and I barely knew her. By the time she got married, five years later, I was her maid of honor.

Her family became like mine. And after Best Friend, Erica was the first person I called when my dad died. And she dropped everything, told her coworkers she was leaving, and was at the hospital before my father’s own siblings were there. And Erin was there as soon as possible too. And they continued to be there through the aftermath.

Every time we see each other, we pick up where we left off. Our lives are very different. But they always have been. I once explained us as there always being one of us at one extreme, one at another, and the third firmly in the middle. So while Erica got married almost six years ago and has a son, Erin is more of a newlywed, heading back to school. And I am as single as the come, in Chicago and starting my new career path. But no matter where we go or what we do, we’re still the Ann Girls.

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