I can still remember the first day of fourth grade when I locked eyes on K. I was new in town and knew no one in our class, but the moment I saw her I knew she was my friend. That wonderful magic of finding a kindred spirit was at work and I knew her instantly.
To look at us, you couldn't have found a more unlikely duo. I was tiny, in those days, the size of most first graders. I had long shiny brown hair up in pig tails, a tidy uniform, and my mother had fixed me just-so. She, on the other hand, was outrageously tall, nearly the same height as our teacher. Her curly hair frizzed up into a fantastic brown cloud, and her gawky height made her uniform always look as if it were at an awkward angle. Where I looked like a prissy thing, she bore the unmistakable mark of a tomboy. I loved her on sight.
For the next two years, we were inseparable. While the cool girls staked out their playground spots on the swings and the merry-go-round, we preferred to sit on top of the rusty monkey bars in a world of our own making. We were unicorns battling dragons, and warrior princesses who didn't need to wait on any knight to rescue us. We lived in a fantasy world of make-believe. I loved it.
After school, we hung out, mostly at her house, ate the snacks my mother never let into our own pantry, watched movies and played. Summers were spent in her pool where we were mermaids. Always mermaids. We determinedly swam with out feet held together to be our tails. There were many discussions about how exactly a mermaid tail would move before we decided that up and down like a dolphin was he only logical way for it to work.
It was, quite simply, one of the best times of my life.
Eventually we went to different middle schools and our friendship began to fade. Then her dad got a new job and they moved away. My friend was gone forever. There was never another who could quite fill that mermaid shaped hole in my life.
When we moved to Dallas two years ago, I found her again. We were, one again, an unlikely twosome. I was a devout Catholic homeschooling mom of seven. She was a lesbian living with her Rose, and their new baby just twenty minutes from my house. She invited me to meet her for lunch, and I reluctantly agreed. What could we possibly have in common?
When I opened my front door that day, not much had changed. I was still a short-ish 5'3" and she towered over me at over 6' tall. Her cloud of hair was streaked with silver strands and mine was dyed in a determined effort to deny the passage of time. With baby Z on her hip, she threw an arm around me and held me tight, then threw her head back with her unmistakeable barking laugh and I knew that I still loved her as no other. My mermaid had returned to me.
She has been joy to me for the past two years. We agree on very little politically, but our parenting philosophies are nearly identical. Even the things we disagree on are places of fascinating discussions and we both have walked away with greater understanding and respect for each other. We have been each other's emergency phone call, and favorite I-just-need-to-get-out-of-the-house friend. Most of the time though, we laughed. Because our friendship was fun.
She moved on Thursday. They sold their house and moved to Austin. I knew it was coming, and had prepared myself as best I could. We had planned to get together on her last Wednesday here, but things changed and we couldn't. So she packed her now two kids into the minivan and headed south. She hadn't been on the road long when she called and asked what I was doing right that moment. Was I free for lunch? I dropped everything and was. She did a u-turn and came back to have a bite of lunch and to hug me good-bye. We had to see each other one more time.
I sobbed as she drove away. There are many cherished and loved people in my life, but only one who had the power to make me magical. Only she could take a prissy girl with pig tails and help her become a mermaid. I miss her already.