(I love telling stories. It might be my favorite “style” of writing. It is, without a doubt, the stuff that most of my readers best respond to. This year, I want to tell you some stories about my past– about people who’ve made me who I am today. Some will be happy, some will be sad. Some you will find encouraging, some you will find maddening. But they all have one thing in common. They are all: People Who’ve Made Me Who I Am Today.)
Her name is Monica, but I call her Mone. She calls me Chessy. I’m quite certain that we are the only people who call one another by those names, but we have done so for over 25 years now.
We were both ten years old when our parents moved into the fancy new houses in the developing neighborhood in that tiny Connecticut town. No one had lived there very long, really, but we were pretty much brand new. We had just started fifth grade in a whole new school.
We had just gotten home on the afternoon bus and our moms were there, at the bus stop, waiting for us. They had started chatting. We, in turn, were left just waiting. I didn’t know this girl, or her two younger brothers, for that matter.
We stood, looking around, kicking at loose pebbles on the road. I must have turned too suddenly– and not zipped my backpack enough– because, all of sudden, there was a muffled thump. We all glanced down just in time to see the apple, left over from my lunch, rolling/bouncing down the steep hill of our road.
And that was it, really. Mone and I became fast friends.
I know that doesn’t sound like any big deal, but, for me, it really was. The thing is, even at the tender age of ten, most of my friendships had been determined by academic similarities. In fourth grade, I had tested into a gifted program (more on that another time) that offered some great opportunities, but also effectively alienated me from everyone else in the school– we had our own little wing of the school and did all specials and lunches together. Even without such clear division put in place by the school, I tended to find common ground with kids who were also quick with figures and strong readers. It’s just the way it went.
Aside from being Catholic (not rare around here, by any stretch, given our large Irish and Italian populations), Mone and I had little to nothing in common. I was the youngest in my family, she was the oldest. I was super skinny with glasses, she still bore some baby-pudge (that later more than melted off!) and could see without assistance. I was outgoing, she was shy. Most notably, I was talented academically, she was talented artistically.
As the years went on, Mone and I found ourselves in fewer and fewer common classes. High school, for me, became a time full of APs and trying to cram in as many languages as I could. My PSAT scores made me a fairly hot commodity and I was busy figuring out what college might give me the best scholarship (just being honest here.) She took more and more art classes as she narrowed her field and specialty. Her talent grew and it was clear she had a gift. By the end of senior year, she had an impressive portfolio that got her into art school.
Still, we fought to spend as much time together as possible. She worked her tail off in AP Art History. I petitioned to take a mainstream science class at an honors level (<– that’s actually a very funny story.) We were devastated any time we didn’t have the same lunch period. Circumstances at school didn’t toss us together, but we looked for any chance we had to enjoy each other’s company.
Today, we are both stay-at-home moms and, come March, we will each have three children. We married smart, charming men who get along with each other. She is the godmother of my youngest child. And she will be here to visit this Friday.
I still count Mone as my best friend. We still exhibit vastly different strengths, but that’s never held us back.
Mone is the one who taught me that friendship doesn’t have to be based on having everything in common– there is a lot be said for supporting and celebrating one another’s strengths and helping the other grow and shine in new ways, too.
God blessed us both the day my apple rolled down the hill.
Other people who’ve made me who I am: