Friday, March 12, 2010

Life Tip #10 - Keep in Touch

     Rare moment: me, a large cup of hot coffee, and my blog.  It's been a while, and I have a strong appreciation for moments of clarity that also allow you enough time to record them . . .

     It's hard to capture what I am feeling in words. Over the last few days, I have caught myself smiling or laughing to myself before I realized I'd been remembering the good times I shared with my college dance team.

     Remembering the day Judi and I arrived at our dorm and the wonder we felt when our parents finally left us to start college life together 10 hours away from home.  Ranger was a tiny town of little more than 1000 people, and that included all of us at the college. Judi got a dance scholarship, and got me on as a walk-on. It was the best favor any friend ever did for another. It was there that we saw the clearest skies and brightest stars in Texas. Where we stood in complete darkness on the overpass on I-20 and leaned way over it so that when the semi trucks passed under it and us, we felt a rush of wind and power and adrenaline unlike anything else.  It sounds crazy, but when someone was having a bad day, Judi and I looked at each other knowingly and took them to the "bridge." It only took one truck to get a smile, and after 10 or 12, talk turned to where the evening would find us.  It was there that we learned to run the 5 mile loop without stopping - mostly to prove to our hard core dance instructor that we could it and not because we could actually do it. 
And it was there that we learned both how to country dance and how to skull a beer and how not to have high expectations about places called "Sandy Beach" or "The Hill."  In the plains of North Texas, the first was a field and the second was the side of an overpass that was hidden from view.  It was also there that we learned to buckle down and work hard.  We studied as much as we partied, and on many nights, you could find one or more girls sitting out in our everlit hallway, working on something that had to be turned in the next day.  I myself learned that I could study quite well when I was drunk. As long as I got an hour or two of sleep, almost all of the information stayed at the top of my brain, like the foam on a draft beer.

     Independence was a better teacher than anything I'd ever experienced.  Being hours away from home meant we had to do our own laundry at a laundromat.  It meant we had to be careful with the money our parents sent to us in the mail.  It meant we had to nurse ourselves and each other when we got sick. Judi got me through the flu, and the two of us called Shannon's mom when she got so sick we knew she had to be hospitalized.

     I think of each girl . . . Judi, Carrie, Shelly, Trisha, Renee, Misty, Ammie, Tiffany, Shannon, Stephanie, Leticia, and Dianna, and I marvel at how such strong young women had the good fortune to end up in the same place.  Each was determined.  Each was compassionate.  Each had a fighting spirit that never let her get down for longer than it took to get her to The Bridge.

     We talked. We talked all day, every day, and late into each night. And every Sunday, when those who were close enough to go home on the weekends were back, we gathered in someone's room expressely to hear about how the weekend was.  Everyone got a turn to share, and we thoroughly enjoyed all the details that made up our days apart.  Fridays were great, but I think many of us thought Sundays were better. 

     On more than one occassion, we learned how to "mildly" break a law.  It wasn't breaking and entering at the bass house, it was "exploring."  And when we found the perfect pier for laying out, we figured no one would question six fit girls in bikinis.  And they didn't. :)  And stopping on I-20 in the middle of Fort Worth to pee on the side of the road?  We called it public service in the form of entertainment for the passing drivers. And when we were stopped by our security guard, Rocky, as we headed to Bostock's in Stephenville, I rolled my eyes and shook my head in disgust when he opened our ice chest full of Zima's.  "God, Rocky,"I said.  "Zima's are energy drinks, not beer.  We're on the dance team, for crying out loud!" The girls in the car expressed equal disgust as he meekly apologized and let us go off into the night, hooting and hollering the whole way . . .

     Oh, and there were boys.  Boys who turned our worlds upside down and made us crazy and broke our hearts. Shelly and Stephanie found the loves of their lives, and the rest of us found life lessons and inner strength and frankly, some duds if there ever were any.

     When our two years were up, I don't think I was the only one who struggled with the separation.  It was too sudden - too hard - too over.  And there was no one who understood what it was like to lose a team of sisters all at once. There was really no one to talk to about it, and I guess we all assumed that we didn't need to impose on each other as we moved on. Talking to all of them now, I wish I had been stubborn about these friendships. I wish I had looked at it as normal instead of an imposition.  I thought more than once that I must have needed them more than they needed me. Sixteen years later, I find that I was wrong.

     Tomorrow I will see the friends who I have missed for so long, and I can't stop smiling.  I have old photos (some incriminating, some just plain strange.) I have my old dance captain jacket and the last issue of our college newspaper. I have some acting medals and my diploma, and I have a heart full of great memories to boot. I've talked to Shannon, the BEST person in the world. I've talked to Leticia, the most motivating and positive person in the world, I'll be heading out on this road trip with Shelly, who is the FUNNIEST person in the world, and today I talked to Judi, the person who knows who I am even after all these years.  And we've all agreed to one thing: we will go way beyond reunions.  We will pick up where we left off and not miss a beat.  Saturday afternoon will be like our old Sundays and Saturday night will be a step up from Bostock's, partly because we won't have to sneak drinks and partly because we're still the crazy girls we used to be . . . Southern Belles after all.