(an earlier version of this post, written in a sleepy and emotional state, had some glaring typos. those that i’ve caught have been fixed.)
I remember being strapped in, hooked up, all set to take the step off the zipline platform. I also remember stopping near the edge and looking down. I didn’t want to go. I’d seen dozens of other kids do it, and I could see where it ended across the lake, but I just wasn’t sure. It was the kind of fear no amount of adult persuasion could erase. I was just one tiny kid in a bathing suit and dorky looking sandals trying to negotiate with myself. I remember hitting a wall, realizing I was seconds away from just saying “no thanks” and climbing back down the platform with my harness still wrapped around my little legs. Laura volunteered to go first. She was brave. She was always braver than me. Not 5 minutes later I was on the other side of the lake, glad I’d just taken my chance.
I came out of the womb with a best friend already picked out for me. Our moms had given birth to sons 3 or 4 years earlier just weeks apart. We were set to be born within a couple of months of each other.
I got here first. She waited around until early February. She was worth the wait.
Our friendship was the kind you find in chapter books for 4th graders, a babysitter’s club friendship. We spent every spare moment we had together, or at least that’s how I remember it.
My mom had a in-home daycare when I was a kid. She kept Laura, her brother, her cousin, along with her own kids. Laura and I took naps in the same room. When my mom came in the room one day and found me covered in stick-on earrings, Laura was in the crib nearby also covered. Our parents tell stories of us throwing stuffed animals from one crib to the next as toddlers.
It took a long time to grow out of staying up when we should’ve been sleeping. I remember sleepovers when Laura’s poor parents would have to separate us just to get us to be quiet.
When I was 4 I went to Laura’s first dance recital. The next fall I was in class next to her. We started kindergarten at the same school. We signed up for the YMCA’s “Indian Princesses” with our dads.. same tribe, of course. We carpooled to every indian princess father-daughter trip.
We were each other’s only default sleepover buddy. We were both halves of those 90s friendship bracelets that were meant to look like they were broken in two. We were ‘Now and Then’ and singing along to Celine Dion (how did we get SO into Celine Dion)?
Laura and I haven’t lived in the same town in 12 years. I remember standing in a single-file line behind Laura in the 3rd grade hallway of our elementary school. I’d only recently realized that sometimes people move away from their hometowns, for whatever reason. I thought the notion was insane, and I’d apparently spent some time worrying that Laura’s parents would take her away from me. I remember promising her I’d never leave and asking her to do the same. A silly thing for a kid to think she can control. My family moved when I was almost 15.
We’re adults now. Our stories have changed dramatically, but so many of the first things I learned in this world were learned with Laura by my side. I’ve seen her a few times since high school, and our families still keep in touch. You don’t let go of people who’ve meant so much to the shaping of your world.
What I know most, and what I hope she realizes now is this — on a summer day somewhere on top of a two-story wooden platform in North Carolina, Laura taught me how to be brave.