The phone rang late Sunday afternoon and when I answered, I heard an exuberant voice say, “Linda! C’est Lorraine!” The French words came with an English/American accent but there was no mistaking the voice of one of my oldest friends. She’s been in the States for years, but the miles and the years instantly melt away when we reconnect.
We met in high school and quickly became friends. To be more precise, we first met in ballet class when we were eight or nine, but didn’t get to know each other at the time. I noticed her, though, because even then she was confident and fearless. Add to that the the luxuriously thick, wavy, honey-coloured hair that hung half-way down her back, and she was hard to miss.
I was the opposite – the timid, chubby kid with asthma at the back of the class. I only ended up in ballet because the tap class I really wanted was canceled. To my surprise, I liked ballet! Maybe it was because our teacher was a former winner of the Miss Montreal beauty pageant. Each week she brought her tiara to class. Toward the end of the hour she asked us, as a group, to perform a step we had practiced that day, like a relevé, arabesque or pirouette. The girl who best performed it would have the glittering tiara placed on her head. Then she would execute the step one more time while the rest of us watched. Guess who most often won the tiara? Lori may not have been the most graceful dancer (none of us were truly ballerina material), but she was fiercely competitive. She threw herself into whatever step was requested with a determination and energy that earned her that crown.
When we found ourselves in the same class in high school, I recognized her right away. To her credit, she remembered me too, although there had been nothing remarkable about me during our ballet days. But by then we had more in common. We were both athletic (I had outgrown my asthma and shed my baby fat) and joined the gymnastics team. Our talent was limited (extremely limited) but Lori dreamed of going to the Olympics and she made me believe we could do it. We didn’t, of course, but the hours we spent dreaming and talking about it were priceless.
She isn’t very tall but her determination, skill and competitive nature landed her a spot on the basketball team. I was happy to be part of the cheerleading squad, which was a much tamer activity than it is today.
She was definitely the leader and I her willing follower. We were still freshmen when Lori decided we should be part of the school talent show. It was really for seniors who would be leaving school at the end of the year to star on the stage of life. But Lori just didn’t see why we couldn’t be part of it. Rules, especially unwritten ones, were made to be broken sometimes, weren’t they? We ended up with a short number in the show, but the best part of it was the rehearsals with the older crowd leading up to it.
We took different paths after high school, but stayed fast friends. Not long after she graduated from nursing school, she married and moved with her physician husband to the US. We still see or call each other occasionally. Sometimes months or even a year pass where we don’t speak except through Facebook. It never matters because the second we reconnect, it’s like no time at all has gone by.
Lori is one of several friends I have had and cherished for a long time. I know not everyone can say that and how lucky I am to be able to. So, no matter what’s in store for us in the years to come, I’d like to think we’ll still be raising our glasses and maybe even a little hell together.