(I’d like to thank all of you who felt my pain in my last post, who cringed at my lip photos and gave me cyber hugs and tried to make me feel better by telling me it didn’t look that bad – oh wait, nobody said it didn’t look that bad. Anyway, I appreciate all of your well wishes. As I mentioned to a blogging friend yesterday, my lip now looks like an afterbirth. It is still swollen and is covered with thick, bloody scabs, as is half of my chin. It is seriously the worst looking cold sore I have ever had in my life and I wanted to post another picture of it but my kids begged me not to and my mother asked if I was trying to give her a heart attack, so I decided against it. I’m hoping it’s nearing the end of its cycle and that in a week or so, I’ll be back to myself again and can resume my side job as Cindy Crawford’s stand-in. I’ll keep you updated.)
Traci, my best friend from sixth grade, the one I grew up with and shared every important event in my life with over the past thirty one years, the one who swore we’d be best friends forever, tried to kill me the other day by sending me an announcement of her son’s high school graduation. No warning whatsoever, nothing to prepare me for the simple 4 x 6 card in my mailbox that announced the who, what, when, where and why and for all intents and purposes might just as well have declared OH MY GOD, WE’RE OLD, SEND HELP.
It took a couple of hours before I calmed down enough to process the fact that even though I don’t have a child graduating high school, I am old enough to have a child graduating high school and that is just as bad so I don’t feel one iota of guilt for drowning my sorrow by inhaling twenty Wegman’s brownie bites. I’m making myself feel better by telling Traci that we may both be old but she will forever be older having been born two months before me. Traci is making herself feel better by telling me to eat shit.
Traci and I met in sixth grade when I threw caution to the wind, stepped about ten miles out of my comfort zone and whispered to the red headed girl sitting in front of me “is your mom the art teacher from North School?” and she looked back, flashed a huge grin and shook her head no.
From that moment on, we were inseparable and no one could figure out why because if you searched the globe over, you could not have found two people so completely different from one another. Traci was a beautiful, skinny, red-headed, thrill seeking junkie with mediocre grades who took uncalculated and ridiculously unnecessary risks and I was an ordinary, plain, shy, rule-driven student with excellent grades who would have liked to have been spontaneous if it fit into my schedule, didn’t piss off my parents, was well planned out and came with a back up plan.
I spent almost every weekend at Traci’s house and I lived for those weekends. Not because we did anything special because other than the occasional camping trip and a late night party thrown by her older brother and rearranging her bedroom furniture, we really didn’t do anything special. Just hung out. But I loved hanging out because I was not allowed to hang out at my house. Hanging out meant idle hands and idle hands meant that there were ten fingers that needed something to do and that something was going to be in the form of manual labor. I just wanted to hang out and have idle hands and Traci’s house was a haven for idle hands.
Traci loved to cook and bake and because I only had a vague idea of what an oven actually did, she took it upon herself to try to teach me the basics and this lasted for a couple of weeks up until the day she cleaned a turkey and pulled things out of it so disgusting that I thought I would throw up right there on the spot. I simply could not fathom that she had pulled something so horrid out of my dinner and furthermore, that she fully intended to use it to make gravy, the very same gravy I had been dreaming about the entire day, the gravy I wanted to drink with my turkey and this was enough to make me gag and pass out, at which time Traci declared cooking lessons as being SO OVER.
I remember the first time she made meatballs and her brother’s friend, who I’ll refer to as Pain In The Ass told her that his mother used a lot of eggs in her meatballs. Traci cracked several eggs into the bowl, started mixing it all together, saw that it was pretty goopy, asked Pain In The Ass whether he was sure about the whole egg thing and looked up to see him double over with laughter. She was just livid. I have never seen goop fly so fast, hitting the wall next to Pain In The Ass with a greasy SPLAT. I think it’s very telling that I had the biggest crush on Pain In The Ass for years and that probably goes a long way to explain my predisposition to find every asshole on the planet and date him by the time I was thirty.
Traci’s family went camping, something that my family might have considered if it meant a hotel, room service and valet parking. I’d go over to Traci’s, help them pack up the car and off we’d go for a weekend of roughing it. Thank God roughing it came with a camper, electricity, a shower and a pull-down bed that doubled as the kitchen table because otherwise, I just don’t think I could have done it. Tents and I have never gotten along. Ever.
It was on one such camping trip that Traci declared it was time for me to grow up and learn how to use a tampon because tampons would change my life and more importantly, they were a sign of maturity and while I may have cornered the I-Know-Everything market in a book sense sort of way, Traci had cornered it in every other conceivable way so if she said it needed to be done, it needed to be done. She came prepared with a brand new box of tampons and at the first opportunity, How To Insert A Tampon 101 began.
Traci showed me the directions and drawings, handed me a tampon and asked me if I had any questions. I shook my head, entered the tiny little camper bathroom, said a prayer and winged it. After about five minutes, I yelled through the door that it wouldn’t go in and WHERE DOES IT GO AGAIN? And she yelled THERE. And I yelled THERE WHERE? And she slipped the instructions under the door and yelled for me to read them. And I yelled that the tampon was defective. And she yelled back that is most certainly was not and to try again. And I yelled back that maybe I was defective. And she yelled at me to get a grip on myself, literally. And I yelled that the entire process might go a little easier if I had more room than a coffin in which to work and WAS IT POSSIBLE TO PUNCTURE A VITAL ORGAN WITH A PIECE OF COTTON? And she yelled at me to shut up. And I yelled IS IT SUPPOSED TO FEEL LIKE I’M GIVING BIRTH? And she yelled HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW? And I yelled back that I needed another one because this one was mangled. And she opened the door a crack and threw me another one.
This happened about fifteen times until a couple of minutes of silence passed after which she asked if I was still alive. I emerged, sweaty and flushed but victorious. She congratulated me and then told me to make sure I didn’t flush the applicator. And I asked, what applicator? And she looked at me and I looked at her and the horror dawned upon us at the same time and she shoved me back into the bathroom, slammed the door and proceeded to yell the “in case of an emergency” instructions step by step to me while I cried my eyes out and yelled I KNEW THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN and she yelled JUST SHUT UP AND GET IT OUT ALREADY and it was all I could do to remain conscious as I wondered if it was possible to contract toxic shock syndrome after two minutes and I was certain I was seconds away from death and I had visions of Traci calling my parents to explain that I had been killed by a tampon at which point my mother wouldn’t be able to restrain herself any longer and would shout I TOLD YOU SO at the top of her lungs to my father because she always knew that Traci girl was up to no good.
It took awhile but I managed to extricate the item and four hours later, I successfully completed How to Insert A Tampon 101 and was well on my way to obtaining an honorary degree from Traci’s School of Maturity.
On another camping trip years later, Traci decided to teach me Human Anatomy 101 by carving a reasonable facsimile of the male genitalia out of a hot dog and if turkey giblets caused me to heave, seeing the male unit sculpted out of a Zweigel was enough to make me run screaming from the camper and swear off all types of meat forever.
There was another camping trip that involved a tent, a late-night excursion, beer, poo and one of us dragging the other back to the campsite and getting caught by her mother. But I won’t get into it here as Traci knows exactly what I’m talking about and I’m sure she’ll appreciate my discretion. Hi Traci! (((waving furiously)))
After Traci’s parents divorced, there were no more camping trips and she and her mom were living on a very limited budget so every weekend, we would head to the Big M for grocery shopping, her with a list and pushing the cart and me following behind with a pad of paper and pencil, keeping a running total to ensure we’d be within her budget, which almost never happened and it wasn’t because of lack of effort on my part. It was because Traci could not help herself from tossing things in the cart, taking them back out, changing her mind and tossing some of them back in, and never telling me half the time what she was doing so we’d wind up at the cash register $61.28 over budget whereupon I’d drive myself crazy going over my calculations, wondering if I forgot to carry the two. Then we’d go back to their apartment where she’d make us these gigantic salads with lettuce, corn and of all things, tuna fish. I still can’t believe I ate tuna fish back then because the thought of it now makes me ill. The things we do for our friends.
It was Traci who got me into the worst trouble in high school when she convinced me to skip gym class one day. Traci hated gym and probably would have preferred to get her foot amputated without anesthesia. We were both reported but Traci’s mom worked in the library and was friends with all of the teachers, including our gym teacher, Mrs. Weeble who’s namesake was derived from her striking resemblance to a Weeble of the Weebles Wobble But They Don’t Fall Down empire, so Traci didn’t get into any trouble. I, on the other hand, was very nearly banished to Siberia, a fact that was not lost upon Mrs. Weeble who actually sought me out to apologize under the condition I never let it happen again. I didn’t because I didn’t know where the hell Siberia was and whether or not they knew how to make a good pizza.
It was with Traci that I first felt the cobblestones under my feet in Paris in 1984 and got lost on the Metro, winding up miles away from our hotel after curfew, a situation that made me fall to my knees and wretch and made Traci laugh and dance in circles under a street light on the Seine. It was on that same Metro days later when Traci took it upon herself to experience a sexual revolution flashback and pinch the ass of the guy standing in front of us, who then turned and bestowed upon me my very first proposition in a foreign language. Somehow an obscene sex act sounds so much more romantic when described in French and I almost asked him to repeat it.
It was through Traci that I lived vicariously as she chewed up and spit out countless throngs of great looking guys begging to go out with her, and I always wondered what it would be like to be the pretty one.
It was Traci who shared her grandparents with me as I never had any of my own.
It was Traci who tried to pick me up one night in her gold Gutless Cutlass after I declared that I could not live in that house one more second and it was she who wound up driving back to her house alone with an earful of my father’s words to keep her company.
It was Traci who shared her high school graduation party with me and I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I looked up and saw my name next to hers on the congratulations sign.
It was Traci who I called from college when I got homesick and it was Traci who asked me just what the hell I thought I was doing when she found out Pain In The Ass was on his way to my dorm for a visit. For the record, I didn’t know what I was doing and I was an idiot.
It was Traci who saved my life when I called her late one cold, snowy night in December, beaten and bruised with a concussion and no shoes and no coat, pleading for her to tell me what to do and she did the hardest thing a best friend could do and told me to go home.
It was Traci who got married first and at whose reception I danced with every eligible man in the room which made me feel beautiful and desirable and for the first time in my life, I knew what it must have been like to be her for all of those years.
She threw me a baby shower for my first daughter and got all excited after I called her in a panic three weeks later when I thought I was dying because this awful gelatinous ball of goo had dropped out of me when I went to the bathroom and it looked eerily like turkey giblets and that was my initiation into the wonder that is a mucus plug.
She was the one I called from the floor of my bedroom closet late at night after my first husband told me he knew the day he married me he didn’t love me. And she was a true friend by cursing him out every single time she saw me thereafter.
And she was right there beaming when I got married to my soul mate two years later.
Every painfully shy girl who believes she is so much less than ordinary and who is bound and determined to disappear into the nearest wall needs a Traci to ensure that life does not simply pass her by but rather stops in front of her in a gold Oldsmobile Cutlass, lets her call shotgun and shows her how to enjoy the ride.