About a year ago, I wrote this post about my friend Krista. I explained at the beginning of it that I often think about people from my life as chapters in the story of my life. Well every good story has a hero, but more importantly, every hero has a best friend.
Most people have multiple best friends. Some are lifelong, some come and go. Sometimes it's a group of friends. But I think that for most of us, when we think back on our childhood, there is one face that stands out stronger than all of the others. The friend that you told your secrets to. The friend that you broke the rules with. The friend that you laughed til you wet your pants with. If you asked people who are in my life now, who also knew me growing up, who that friend would be for me, the answer would be obvious. Jenina.
Ah, Jenina. Where to begin?
We met at a summer enrichment camp. An art class, to be specific. I think it was the summer after our 2nd grade year. She would know for sure - she has a MUCH better memory than I do. We hit it off right away, but we became best friends when my mom started babysitting Jenina and her sister, Carly. We were in the 4th grade.
My mom babysat kids my entire life. I have three sisters, and I cannot remember a time when there were less than 10 children in the house. Some younger, some older. Jenina was not the first person my age that my mom kept. I was friends with the others too. Stephanie, Kirsten, Reagan. But from the very beginning, Jenina was different. We were more than friends. We were BEST friends. Soul mates. Kindred spirits.
Jenina wasn't like anyone I had ever known before. A daughter of two creative entrepreneurs, and probably hippies at heart, if I'm being honest. Even today, I don't know if I have ever encountered someone with her spirit - her enthusiasm was contagious. She was energetic, full of life. She had a way of making you feel special just by talking to you. It was a gift, and she used it generously. Jenina was a friend to everyone. Loved to laugh, the harder the better.
We were both daydreamers, and together, our dreams always sounded so possible. Practical even. We were going to be best friends all through high school. (Isn't it funny how, when you are in elementary and middle school, high school seems like the climax of all awesomeness?) Then we were going to be roommates in college. Then we were going to graduate and go live in one of the greenhouses in her grandmothers backyard. Then we were going to marry best friends and live next to each other. We liked to joke about being old ladies together, sitting on a porch in rocking chairs not being able to hear what the other was saying, but still talking anyway.
We had a crush on the same boy. The boy next door - or around the corner, actually. Josh Terkelsen. We used to make what we called "fun houses" in her laundry room. We would stack boxes and hang sheets and try to make a maze. Then we would call Josh and tell him to come over and go through our fun house with us. I think we were both always wishing that he would bump into one of us in the dark and declare his undying love for us. It never happened, but I think that made it even more fun. The possibility was no doubt more exciting than the reality would have been.
I went to Disney world with her family. Best vacation of my life. We screamed really loud on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride trying to scare our little sisters, Carly and Jenna, who were also best friends. It was a magical trip.
We were friends for a long time. We grew apart in high school. Not really for any dramatic reason. I was very involved in choir and she was very involved in theater. If you, or anyone you know, did theater in high school, you know how time consuming it is. The rehearsals and shows... it's a very demanding schedule. And when you spend that much time with a group of people in that setting, it's inevitable that you grow close. Theater groups always are. I loved theater, but not as much as I loved to sing. When George, the theater teacher at our school, asked me to be in the productions class that actually performed plays, I turned it down. If I had done theater and choir, I would have had to quit my job, and I would have to miss rehearsals for one or the other often. It just felt like too much.
That is one of the decisions in my life that I look back on and know that if I had chosen differently, it would have altered the course of my life. I'm sure of it. I don't say that with regret, it's just interesting to recognize so clearly a moment that ended up defining my life in some way.
As graduation crept closer, Jenina and I started spending more time together. We double dated for prom. After prom we went to casino night, and then spent the night at her house. Her dad made us his famous pancakes the morning after.
I went to an out of state college and she stayed local. The distance made us work harder to stay close, and for those four years, we were extremely close. Our lives were changing. We were becoming adults. But we were doing it together.
After college, we were roommates for a short while. We realized quickly that we were not friends who lived well together. But our friendship survived it.
Soon after I moved out, she got engaged. I love her husband! But marriage and motherhood were not a part of my life, so for the first time ever, we were in different stages of our lives. She was walking a road that I could not relate with, and I had no real understanding of. Now that I am older, I see very clearly how I became a pretty useless friend. I wonder if she feels like I failed her?
We would occasionally meet for coffee, but our coffee dates grew further and further apart, and eventually they ended all together. The last time that I saw Jenina was on her 30th birthday. That will be two years ago tomorrow.
I still love her with all of my heart. I know that our gypsy spirits probably still get lost in similar daydreams. I think about her every day, probably 10 times a day. I think about her every time that I load the dishwasher. Every single time. Because when we were roommates, the first time we loaded the dishwasher, we weren't sure if the silverware was supposed to go in top up or bottom up. Peanut butter makes me think of her, because we both love my mom's peanut butter bars. Pancakes make me think of her because her dad makes the best in the world. A million movies make me think of her. Certain actors that we loved. Tons of songs. Zack Morris. She is everywhere in my world, even though I never see her.
Tomorrow she turns 32. My favorite number! Can you believe it, Jenina? We made it to my favorite number! It's going to be a good year. I wish you all of the love in the world. I hope that you know that you are loved by this girl, and will be forever and always. Thank you for always believing in me. No one in my life has ever encouraged me the way that you did. Whether I deserved it or not, you had faith in me. I think you are a great mom and an amazing woman. I love you! Happy birthday =-)