As the guidance counselor at St. Robert Elementary School, Mrs. Thompson was hip to emoticons before emoticons were cool. In her office, an impossibly tiny corner of the computer lab, hung two posters. The first featured a desperately sad, wet cat with the words, “Having a bad day?” emblazoned across the top. “How do you feel today?” inquired the second, and it offered up a wide array of (creepy) cartoon faces representing various emotions, similar to this poster:
Mrs. Thompson was big on feelings, and during weekly Guidance Class, she would instruct us on various important social-emotional skills like properly identifying our own feelings and talking about them; imagining ourselves in the shoes of others; working through conflict with respect and kindness; and learning to say “I’m sorry”. She was great. And also highly ineffective — and not because of any fault of her own but rather due to my judgmental nature.
Mrs. Thompson suffered from chronic laryngitis (and also extreme height; I found myself enthralled by her choice in printed socks (neon frogs! musical notes! Prozac smiley faces!), which were invariably peeking out from beneath the longish skirts she wore, all of which were about six inches too short to qualify as truly long). Her voice was gravelly and quiet, like her inflamed, sandpaper vocal chords were being scratched at by beady-eyed mice every time she uttered a word. So, whilst Mrs. Thompson delivered another sermon on empathy and emotions, I was thinking, “Cough, just COUGH!” or, alternatively, “I like those socks.” Needless to say, because of this misdirection of attention, I spent a lot of time in Mrs. Thompson’s office looking at her posters and trying to navigate the complexities of elementary school friendships. I was usually joined there by two other girls, because if you know anything about girl culture, you now that badness comes in three’s. Mrs. Thompson regularly mediated fights between me and my two best friends, Lauren and Anne Marie; one of us was always crying about feeling left out, and the palpable tension – and the accompanying aggressively vulnerable notes circulating among us (“Am I your first or second best friend?” or “Are you mad at me? Check yes or no.” or “Who do you like best?”) – meant that our well-intentioned teachers regularly recommended us for counseling. However, sending us to Mrs. Thompson’s office was problematic in and of itself, for her office was outfitted with only two beanbag chairs. A visit to her ushered in a whole host of new insecurities about being left out of the bean bag alliance, ganged up on, excluded. Regardless of who was crying when we arrived at Mrs. Thompson’s office, all three of us would have cried at some point during our session, and after a chorus of blubbery “I’m sorry’s,” our triumvirate was restored (if tentatively so).
Childhood was one steep learning curve.
And I’m still learning. As an adult, I find myself amazed by and grateful for the women in my life. I am so lucky that I have gracious, patient, open-hearted friends, and I’m humbled by their presence – truly.
Enter Julia, for instance.
One of my very best friends (she even married Jared and me this summer), she defines drama free. Back in February, she managed to sneak away from her kids in Colorado to join me for a girls’ weekend in Portland. It was the first time she wasn’t trying to conceive, pregnant, or breastfeeding, so needless to say, the weekend was quite gluttonous. Julia, a kindred spirit, wakes up at the crack of dawn, so we managed to pack a lot in during her two-night stay in Portland. Here’s a smattering of what we did:
Friday: pedicures, city wandering, and dinner at Grassa, where we ate lemony calamari and ordered fancy drinks.
Saturday: Voodoo donuts, of course, and hours upon hours at Powell’s City of Books. Julia is a true bibliophile. She, like me, experiences an urgency about giving good book recommendations. Here’s a text message she sent me on Saturday, for example: Have you read Eleanor and Park? I am in LOVE with it. You need to read it ASAP!”
After Powell’s, we hoofed it to the Japanese Gardens where the first spring blossoms were making their appearance.
Afterwards, we walked back through the city, ate some Lebanese food, and caught a matinée of August: Osage County. Wow. If you haven’t seen this movie, see it NOW. Unless you don’t like to be reminded of the endemic quality of familial behavior.
Saturday night we completely lucked out at getting a seat at Pok Pok. It’s a bombdiggity Thai restaurant, and when we arrived (at 5:15, because that’s how we roll), the wait was 1.5-2 hours. When we got to the front of the line to see the hostess, two seats at the bar had opened up. The meal was out of this world.
On Sunday, we met Jared for brunch, and before I knew it, I had to say goodbye to Julia.
The weekend was pure bliss.
I’m curious, what do you most appreciate about your adult friendships?