There’s a small suncatcher hanging in my kitchen window that reads “You’ll Always Be My Friend – You Know Too Much!” It is a gift from Vicki, who has been one of the best friends I’ve had for over 25 years. Although she would deny it, she’s one of the most resilient individuals in existence. She’s survived breast cancer twice, a brain tumor, and has dealt with a host of family issues that would make most of us curl up in a fetal position on the couch and stay there.
I love her like a sister. She’s a kindred spirit who can grieve for what is lost, then show a sense of gallows humor that sends sorrow on down the road with her footprint on its hind end. She’s one of a kind, a blessing in my life and the lives of everyone who knows her. She’s our rock – that one friend that can be called on for any reason, any time, who will always be there for us.
We met on her wedding day, which happened to be the same day I rented the other side of the duplex she and her new husband owned. The reception was being held in the backyard as I moved in, and was without a doubt the most fun I’ve ever had relocating. The wedding guests, many of whom I’d never met, pitched in to help lug boxes and furniture, then we all pitched in to help empty a keg of beer. After a few days of a tentative, landlord/tenant relationship something just clicked between us, and so began one of my most treasured friendships. Since then she’s been one of the most loyal, trusted friends anyone could possibly hope to have.
Fargo, felons and felines
One of the first things we discovered about each other was a mutual love for critters. Vicki’s dog Fargo was a massive Doberman, whose muscular frame and formidable, shark-like smile combined to create a completely intimidating first impression. Once I got to know him, however, it was apparent that beneath all that fur and behind all those teeth was the gentle soul of a lamb and the timing of a comic genius.
Once of his favorite stunts was to drink from his water bowl in the kitchen, then saunter nonchalantly back into the living room. There he would present his very best “I’m such a good boy, don’t you want to skritch me behind the ears?” demeanor to a seated guest. When the unsuspecting visitor complied, Fargo would rest his huge head in seemingly blissful repose on their knee, then release the water he had stored in his mouth all over his victim’s lap. Sitting back on his haunches, he would survey the ensuing reaction with the smug expression of a successful jester. With very few exceptions, anyone allowed into Vicki’s home was an animal lover so Fargo’s prank usually resulted in laughter, especially from those of us who still had dry laps.
The years spent living next door to Vicki produced a wealth of cherished memories. While relaxing in the back yard, she and I had ringside seats as a gun-toting felon fled from police through our backyard. In our defense, we didn’t find out until later about the gun-toting or the felony thing, or we’d have hauled our butts out of those lawn chairs right quick. We once found tiny kittens clinging to our front porch lights, one on each side of the duplex. To this day we haven’t figured out how the little critters managed to climb up there.
Laughter through tears
One of our all-time favorite incidents is losing our breath and our dignity with our dear friend Eileen. Having indulged in some…umm…herbal enhancement earlier in the day, the three of us piled into Eileen’s tiny car and headed to Parkette Drive-In for po’ boys. Eileen’s a natural comedian, so when she spilled her Coke in her lap, her subsequent gymnastics and commentary sent us all over the edge. We were literally howling with laughter, tears streaming down our faces as we struggled to catch our breath. This so amused the folks in a neighboring van that they brought us Kleenex and smiled knowingly, stating simply “Been there.” Of course that set us off again. If laughter truly is the best medicine, we released enough endorphins that day to ensure immortality.
The tears we wept were of an entirely different nature as we witnessed the birth of Vicki’s granddaughter, overwhelmed by the sheer miracle of new life and the incredible courage of her daughter. There were tears shed for sorrowful reasons too, but somehow they seemed easier to bear when shared with Vicki.
Some of the best times we’ve had have been on our road trips. Several of them have been day trips and a few were overnight, but they have all, without exception, been adventures. We refer to these expeditions as “going The Way of the Turtle” because invariably, at some point in the journey, there is a turtle involved. Sometimes this entails risking life and limb to rescue a confused box turtle from the middle of the road, irritating other motorists and most likely confusing the poor turtle even further. At other times the turtles just seem to find us somehow. Impromptu excursions to obscure little festivals in tiny, out-of-the-way towns, taking off for a weekend to the lake, even mundane shopping trips are all likely to include the slow moving reptiles in one form or another.
So we’ve been through a lot together, Vicki and I. There are a multitude of other memories I could share, but I’m not sure the statute of limitations has expired on some of them, and some are just too personal. You get the idea, though.
We don’t get to see each other as much these days – she’s still in Lexington and I’m down here on my hill. But even though we’re distanced geographically, our hearts still live right next door to each other and always will. We are Lucy and Ethel, Mary and Rhoda, Thelma and Louise. Okay, so we’re not likely to drive off a cliff, but don’t tailgate us – we are women who journey The Way of the Turtle and we will not hesitate to slam on the brakes if there’s a terrapin in jeopardy.
We are sisters, therapists, confidants and partners in crime. We are friends who know too much.
When Vicki read this, she reminded me of another bout of helpless laughter. When we coined the phrase “The Way of the Turtle” we discussed getting matching tattoos. Failing to find a design we liked, just getting the initials of the phrase was an option….until we realized it would read TWOTT. Say it out loud, and you’re in on the joke, too 😉