It was Fall 1972. The beginning of 1st Grade. There she was, a little brunette girl with a brilliant smile that lit up her whole face. I just had to meet her. Would she want to be my friend? There was only one other person in the classroom I knew. A boy. Boys had cooties. He was my neighbor. I saw him every day so I did not really want to talk to him.
I walked over and introduced myself. “I’m Patti. What’s your name?”
She replied, “Jackie.”
I asked, “Do you want to be my friend?”
After that, we were inseparable. Wherever one was, there was the other. We had so many things in common, yet at the same time, we were complete opposites. I was very outgoing and had a ‘grab the bull by the horns’, ‘in your face’ type of personality. She was quiet and shy. When we were together, we would chatter away for hours. Sometimes, we would get into trouble because we were always talking. I told her from the very beginning of our friendship I would name my daughter after her . . . And I did.
Each year, we grew closer and closer. We told each other our deepest, darkest secrets. There was not a single thing we did not share.
Jackie came from a broken home. She, along with her father and younger sisters, lived in the basement of her grandparents’ home. Their mother had walked out on them not too long before I met her. Little did I know how much our lives would run parallel to each other.
All was well in our little worlds until we were in the 6th Grade. It was the first year my father pulled a disappearing act. Being Daddy’s Little Girl, I was crushed. Jackie was right there. She helped me through the first time. He did come back, but life was no longer the same around the house.
Jackie was there when he left for good in July 1979. She would listen to me rant and cry for hours. She understood when I told her how bad things had become for my mom financially after my dad left. It is why her father was living in the basement ‘apartment’ at her grandparent’s house. It sucked being poor. However, she and I had each other and that was all that mattered.
The same summer my father abandoned us, she met New Girl. Jackie thought it would be wonderful for our duo to become a trio. I was all for it. New Girl was not. Not. In. The. Least. Sure, she pretended as though she liked me but I could tell something was just not right. There always seemed to be an undercurrent when she was around.
New Girl had moved to the area from Texas. She was a late-in-life baby. All of her siblings had already moved out. New Girl was diabetic – insulin dependent. If New Girl did not get her way, she would intentionally miss taking her insulin. She had to be the center of attention. She used whatever means necessary to be the center of attention.
New Girl was extremely jealous of the relationship Jackie and I had. She wanted Jackie all to herself. Anytime she got wind of plans Jackie and I made, she would come up with some way to lure Jackie to her.
New Girl came from money. As she was essentially an only child – and youngest child – her parents doted on her. When they would go on family vacations, they always took Jackie. Neither Jackie’s parents nor my mom could afford to take family vacations. New Girl’s money was something I just could not compete with.
I remember finally saying something to Jackie. I could not take it anymore. I told her just how incredibly hurt I was by the shit New Girl was pulling. We worked things out, much to New Girl’s dismay.
I remember Jack and I had made plans for her to come over and spend the night at my house. It was the first time she was granted permission to in a long time. We were both excited. Jackie was supposed to show up by 1900. I was beside myself with excitement! It meant I was finally going to spend some one-on-one time with my Best Friend for Life!
Yeah . . . Not so fast. Somehow, New Girl got wind of our plans. Instead of coming to my house and hanging with me, Jackie went skating with New Girl. While she was skating, I was sitting at home waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting. By 1930, I was worried she had done something to get grounded again. So, I chanced calling her house (they were not supposed to receive phone calls past 1900). Her stepmom answered the phone. She said, “I’m sorry, Patti. Jack went skating with New Girl. I thought she called you and told you.” No. No she didn’t. I told her it was OK and hung up the phone.
I. Was. Crushed. I felt betrayed. I felt abandoned. I was hurt. I cried. I cried for hours. I am not a crier. I never have been. Showing anger. Piece of cake. Showing happiness. Not a problem. Showing sadness or sorrow. Only when I have been wounded deeply.
I withdrew from her. She would call, I would have one of my siblings say I was busy or I was grounded. (I never asked my mom to lie for me because she said “I do NOT lie for anyone!” Lord, have mercy, that woman meant it, too!) I would talk to her in school. It just wasn’t the same anymore.
I let her know that when the newness of New Girl and her money had worn off, I would still be there for her. I am loyal until the end. It did not matter how many times she hurt me, I was still there.
In our Sophomore year, Jackie and her family moved to a town about 13 miles away. This meant she had to start all over at a new school. Thankfully, it was not long distance to call her house! And, it meant New Girl could no longer monopolize Jackie’s time.
After New Girl faded to the background (unfortunately, she never disappeared), Jackie and I were to our old selves. Granted, there was the distance factor; but we were able to blow up the phone lines!
In 1984, we graduated High School. I had already decided I was going to earn the title United States Marine. Jackie had yet to decide which path she wanted to take for her ‘adult life.’ The one thing she knew was she was not cut out for life in the military. She was 19. I was 18. Life was awesome back then. If only . . .