Twenty Years of Triscuits and Pepperoni
I couldn’t let this year go by without talking about my friend Sue; this fall marked the 20th year of our friendship.
It’s weird to be old enough to have been friends with someone for twenty years, but somehow, there it is: I have to go back to 1989 if I want to talk about how we met in the seventh grade and became friends instantly, the way only kids can. At twelve, Sue was a talkative, laughing kid who wore her v-neck sweaters backward, and could effortlessly tie her waist-length hair in a bun-knot without the aid of a scrunchie. She had been hit by a car outside the school and had broken her leg; the accident had made her a celebrity in the middle school hallways, and in third-period Social Studies, a small line of cast-signers formed in front of her desk. I wasn’t a witty kid — I was a scrawny, annoying weirdo — so when it was my turn, I scrawled “A Cadillac Was Here” across the side of her cast. Most people would have been irritated, huffy, but not Sue; she smiled at me, and the combination of her braces and the bronze lipstick she’d borrowed from her artistic sister was dazzling. It was on, and for good. We were friends for life.
From that moment forward, we did what kids do; we hung out at her mother’s house while she was at work, making platters of Triscuits covered with cheese and pepperoni slices, and talking about boys. Then I’d go home, and we’d get on the phone, as if we hadn’t talked in weeks. If there was something to be done, and we could manage to do it together, that’s how we’d do it. We bickered like sisters, jockeying for position, but when important things happened, good or bad, the other’s face was the one we looked for. We were never “exclusive”; we had other friends we dearly loved, but all the way into adulthood, we were a constant, never going more than a month or so without making cookies together, or getting a pizza, or walking our dogs.
People have long teased us about our conversations, which regularly don’t contain referential nouns; we’ve talked so long and so often, we don’t need any reiterative groundwork to begin the conversation again. I’ll never forget the flushed look of accomplishment on her husband’s face the first time he actually followed a conversation we were having (“I actually got that!” he shouted). We have firm expectations of each other, and we meet them every time. If she needs me to drive with her to a godforsaken Logan Airport cargo warehouse to pick up a new dog she’s adopted, I’ll do it. If I need to her to make me one of her famous birthday cakes, she’ll do it, and drive it over, even if she has a cold. She knows that I’ll roll under an electrified fence holding a sick newborn calf because I’m the only one who’s small enough to do it without getting a zap. I know that she doesn’t just keep veggie burgers for me in her freezer; she also keeps veggie chicken and veggie bacon. That’s love, folks.
Sue is a busy woman who is constantly in motion; to call her an “epic juggler of all things” would be a lowball. In orbit around Sue are a husband, three jobs, five dogs, two cats, a herd of cattle, a miniature horse, two goats, a rambling farmhouse, a huge garden, siblings, nieces, parents, 4-H kids, friends; her cell phone is never not ringing its strangely ghetto ring. Everyone relies on her, and when the shit goes down, it’s Sue they call. Need a place to throw a baby shower? Sue has tables and chairs for forty people. Dog just swallowed a pair of underwear? Sue is a vet tech and knows what to do. From Sue, I have learned the importance of making a list of what I care about, and letting everything else go. A pile of laundry left on the kitchen table? Nope, we don’t care about that. Dog stealing an entire pizza and running away with it? We’ll care when we’re done laughing. Sam stealing the Thai food menu off the fridge again? Well, maybe we care about that…
Something notable, and perhaps teachable, about my friendship with Sue is the list of ways in which we are different. She majored in Math, and I’m the English major who can barely count; she could have taken or left college, and I loved every minute of it. We circle opposing names in the voting booth, even if we do sometimes go to the polling station together. Sue works on a dairy farm, and I’m now practically vegan. As a confirmed night owl, sometimes I’m just getting home from a fun night out when she is waking up in the morning to milk the herd. We’ve never found the same guys attractive, with the one exception of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (Tom Brady, the great equalizer!). Hell, if we’re getting down to brass tacks, she’s Team Jacob and I’m Team Edward. I’m glad that we never cared at all about these differences, because if we had let them get in the way, think of what I’d have missed: a sister whose joys are my joys, who is adventure and home in one person.
Indeed, strangers often think we are biological sisters, I assume because we both have long, curly, dark brown hair and brown eyes, but it’s still a bit surprising, because I’m tall and (still) scrawny, and Sue is shorter and curvy. When someone asks if we’re sisters, we usually say something like “well, we might as well be,” but on last year’s annual clothes shopping trip (while I am the bargain-hunt master, Sue hates to shop; she will acquiesce to only one fitting room stint per year), when a store clerk said, “you two must be sisters, ” I finally just said, “Yup,” and threw another sparkly sweater over the fitting room door to Sue, who growled in response.
“I’m not wearing this.”
“Come on, just try it!’
So, happy twenty years, Sue. I guess, I’ll, you know, go call you now.