(This week has been full of conversations with old friends. In honor of that, the next few posts will talk about those friends and how special they are. Post titles are the first phrase that comes to mind when I think of them.)
I met Kelley in 1986, in the first grade. I don’t remember a lot about the early years of our friendship. I was kind of a mean kid in elementary school, the bully’s sidekick. I had a tight circle, and we weren’t too keen on letting other people in. Kelley was one of the kids who always wanted in, but never quite made it, if I remember correctly. I always felt bad for her, but my desire to hold my spot in the circle always won.
When we hit junior high, everything changed. Middle school is such a defining time in your life – all of a sudden everyone has a label and a category, and it’s really hard to break out of that. Kelley and I fell into the same category: athletes. We were also in the same carpool, so we became fast friends. We had many adventures in carpooling… her mom hitting road signs, my mom making us late for school, waking up Callie and forcing her to get ready, Randa’s dad blaring tejano music while wearing a sombrero.
As athletes, we had volleyball games after school a few days a week. There was always about a half hour to kill in between, and that is when they held FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) meetings. I didn’t know much about that, but I didn’t have anything else to do, so I went. It was where everyone else went anyway. Through FCA, I started going to retreats and camps, and Kelley invited me to start going to church with her. It was such a simple thing for her to do, but it completely changed my life.
Our friendship grew throughout junior high and high school, and definitely had it’s ups and downs. While I always considered her one of my best friends, we really clashed a lot of the time. We both have pretty strong personalities and are quite outspoken, so we fought. A lot. But I always knew I could count on her, and I had complete trust in her. I never doubted our friendship.
When I think about Kelley, I immediately giggle. She was the queen of silly. From talent shows that we made our parents’ judge, to gymnastics contests on the trampoline (we were awful), to playing school and hotel in her playhouse, she was always ready with something fun to do. As we got older, it became spying on boys, using code names in notes, and silly songs on the bus. I’ll never forget the stealth tactics we used to keep tabs on “The Guy Who Shuts His Locker.” She was always singing, always performing monologues, always dancing. She was a flat out joy to be around.
Kelley always came across as that naive Christian girl, the one who never does anything wrong. She was the one you hid things from for fear of judgment. Maybe that was unfounded, but I know a lot of us felt that way. But she always prayed for you, she always had a song for the occasion, she was at church every time the doors were open. I think I needed that constant in my life during those years, even if at the time it was really frustrating. At church, I was “Kelley’s friend”, even after I’d been there several years. It was hard to have my own identity, and I definitely resented that. But deep down, I think I knew even then that a lot of our problems stemmed from my own insecurities. I was thankful for her friendship.
College was hard on us, and for a while I wasn’t sure we would make it. Communication was sporadic, and our lives had become very different. But we did. The summer after graduation, I was proud to stand in her wedding, and to have her stand in mine. Now we live hundreds of miles apart, but I feel closer to her than ever. It’s comforting to have someone who has known you for most of your life, seen you at your best and worst, and still wants to be your friend. We’ve been through our whole lives together: first loves, first kisses, losing family members, college, marriage, and now children. I still find it hard to believe that my friend Kelley, who once wore a mum with toothbrushes stuck inside it, now has a beautiful six month old son.
I am so glad we made it through the rough times. I’m so glad adult Brandi and adult Kelley are friends.