It was the first day of Kindergarten and I couldn’t have been more excited. Brand new things to learn and new people to meet. Energy leaked out of me with every bounce.
We all mingled in the first room, taking in the toys and books and tables and carpets and SO MANY THINGS! Some kids cried, while I physically pushed my parents away. “You can go now!”
And then I saw the prettiest girl I’d ever seen in my life. What else could I notice first but her pile of espresso curls upon curls upon curls? That many curls a girl could only pray for, especially a girl like me with ashy brown, pin-straight hair. Nobody would die for my hair. But hers?
She was dark and beautiful with huge brown eyes and a bashful smile. I wanted to be just like her, I just knew it.
I don’t recall how I approached her, but I must have pounced. Eventually, or suddenly, I said, “Let’s be best friends.” To which she smiled and replied, “Okay!”
And then we were.
We were completely opposite, yet joined at the hip. One of us shy, the other precocious, both of us quick to giggle. We both wanted the other’s hair. I was sure she was insane for wanting mine, naturally not understanding the challenge of such a mass of curl.
Yet while I had always thought we were poor (and by most standards, we were), her family lived in near poverty. They moved often, between trailers and hotel rooms and even unfinished houses her father was building. She often stayed over and her family spent many holidays with mine.
I was too young to understand how much older than me her life made her. All I knew was I wanted her to be happy and, over the years, I did my best, constantly hamming it up to make her laugh.
My childhood is a blur of memories with her. Sitting next to each other on field trips as we whisper back and forth. Sleepovers where we cackle late into the night, waking my mother over and over and over. Getting our faces painted. Sharing clothes. Endless games and make believe. Cheeks pressed together for a photo.
About the sixth or seventh grade, she pulled away. Who knows why? Maybe I wasn’t cool enough for her anymore or she found new friends or maybe I just knew her too well. I mourned our friendship for far too long. Such losses are devastating, let alone in junior high where even the smallest snub meant the end of the world.
I see her now on Facebook, her children with the same big eyes and gorgeous curls. She looks happy. That's all I could ask for.
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