This is the earliest picture I have of me and Kim. There may be older photos, lost in the boxes in my Grandmother’s basement. It looks like we were, what? Around six or seven here? Grandma let us spend the night in her bed (I don’t remember now why it was such a special thing to be able to sleep in Grandma’s bed, unless it was just because it was bigger?), and the dolls in our laps were made by Grandma and my mother. Four of them are here with me, now.
Neither Kim or I can remember exactly how old we were when we first met. Probably around four or five. She, her parents and her little brother lived one town over, the next-door neighbors of my Aunt Marge and Uncle Jim. To be literal about it, Marge was the daughter of my grandmother’s older sister. So she was actually my first cousin once removed but was titled “Aunt” just as every other older female relative whose connection was less than straightforward.
Visits at Marge and Jim’s house were less than entertaining to a small child – they were, after all, my Grandmother’s compatriots. Always talking about dead relatives I didn’t know and days past I didn’t understand and ailments I wished they wouldn’t describe. I’m sure, in an effort one afternoon to get me out of their hair so they could visit, they took me over to the neighbors to introduce me to “little Kimmy”. We became immediate and fast friends, and considered it fate that our birthdays were only five days apart. Every visit to Marge and Jim’s thereafter had me asking, “Will Kim be home?” before we even got in the car. Grandma would never call ahead (visits to Marge and Jim’s were not dependent upon Kim’s availability to entertain me, after all), so after my obligatory hug and kiss to Marge and Jim, I’d make a beeline across the lawn. Kim’s mom would generally answer my knock on the door – if Kim was home, we’d run up the stairs to her room, or to the connecting yards behind the house and the swing that hung from one of the trees. If she wasn’t home, Kim’s mom would kindly let me sit at their kitchen table and wait, kicking the rungs of the chair and gabbing her ears off (I think they marveled – patiently – at how much I always seemed to have to say). If nobody at all was home, I’d trudge back to Marge and Jim’s and sit on the stairs beyond the dining room that lead to their second-story bedroom, reading whatever book I’d brought with me.
We had many sleepovers between our two houses. I have so many memories – staying up and whispering under the covers until Grandma went to bed, listening for her snoring to start, then sneaking out into the kitchen to make pancakes and “Mimosas” (7-up and orange juice). Kim patiently teaching me how to ski under the lights at Lost Valley. Pressing our arms, palms-down, in the doorway that lead to Kim’s kitchen – holding the position for a minute, then walking forward and feeling our arms “float” upward. Alternating between avoiding Kim’s little brother Kevin, then enlisting him into our fort building and hide-and-seeking. Making up dances in the living room, then performing for tolerant grown-ups. Getting a new tape, then learning the lyrics to every song by playing, writing furiously, stopping, rewinding, playing, writing… until we had it all down and could triumphantly sing the whole song through. Splitting birthday cake – chocolate with chocolate frosting – at my Grandmother’s kitchen table.
Kim is one of the only constants that has spanned my lifetime. She’s the only life-long friend I’ve ever had. We’ve never quarreled, not even in the inevitable way of teenage girls. We’ve never even had a disagreement. At least, not one that I can recall. Just true, pure, honest and lovely friendship. And it’s just as true, pure, honest and lovely today as it was when we were children.
I moved to Arizona when I was nineteen, and years would go by where we wouldn’t see one another. We’d exchange the occasional letter, the even more occasional phone call, and we’d manage to see each other every second or third trip I made home. She attended Grandma’s funeral, and I was so surprised and grateful for her presence. We communicated more through e-mail, and Facebook, as the years went by. I had a good visit with her a few years ago when I went home, and again last summer when we were on Bailey Island. Then last week we FINALLY made good on the vow that she’d visit us in Arizona some day. A plan 20 years in the making. But who’s counting, right?
We picked her up from the airport late in the evening on Wednesday the 6th. I’m pretty sure we didn’t go to bed until well after 2:00 in the morning. We ordered a pizza and relaxed, and started getting all caught up with each other. The dogs were THRILLED to have another lady to love on ’em, and I’m pretty sure they’re still missing her, almost a week after she left.
My manager graciously let me work from home during her visit, since I’m out of vacation time after the moving-not-moving debacle of this summer. Bill was able to take the days off, though, and set out with a vengeance to entertain Kim. Thursday morning everyone just hung around the house, and we went to Salty’s (pictured above) for lunch and took Kim on a brief tour of the luxury neighborhoods in Scottsdale. We grabbed a couple of drinks at Tonic after work, and introduced her to the awesomeness that is an Espos chimichanga.
Friday morning Bill and Kim took off to drive the Apache Trail, while I pouted at home and worked. When I learned that they had lunch at Tortilla Flat I pouted even harder. Then we all got fancy and went to The Keg for steak dinners. We had a few cocktails there, then met Aaron and Michelle at Tonic for a few more cocktails. THEN everyone piled back to our house for a few MORE cocktails. And singing. And dancing. And playing darts. And pool. And laying on the floor giggling.
Kim and I never got that right of passage, of going out and getting drunk together. Well. NAILED IT, even if it was a bit overdue.
Saturday we held down the couches, and sipped 7-up, and nibbled on pretzels, and moaned and groaned. The bunch of us (including Amanda) planned on meeting back up at Tonic to watch a band that night. Everybody else made it but me. I just couldn’t pull it off.
And that’s all I’m gonna say about THAT.
Sunday we rolled out of the house in the Jeep. We drove all the way up to Flagstaff, then took scenic route 89A back down into Sedona. We had lunch at the Open Range Grill & Tavern, then explored our favorite Jeep trail in the whole state, the Broken Arrow Trail.
We had a FANTASTIC time. The weather was beautiful, the company was exceptional, and the scenery was outstanding. We got back home close to 7:00 and didn’t have energy to do more than order some sandwiches from Jimmy John’s and call it a night.
Kim’s flight didn’t leave until after 10:00 p.m. on Monday night, so we spent the day relaxing and visiting. She took the dogs for walks while I was busy working, and spent a lot of time on the patio soaking up the sun before she headed back to Maine. Our November weather differs quite a bit from hers! I crocked a potroast for dinner, and all too soon it was time to pile back into the truck and head to the airport.
We exchanged long hugs at the terminal, with promises to make this kind of trip an annual thing. I choked back tears as she walked through the doors, and kept choking them back on the drive back home. Once home, Bill asked me to check the sink in the guest room upstairs to make sure it wasn’t leaking (he’d installed it just the day before Kim arrived). I opened the cabinet and discovered a gift bag. My “Oh, MAN” had Bill running up the stairs, expecting a leak. I just stood there, holding the present Kim left me and bawling.
Then next day I found a card that she’d left on the kitchen table, along with a long heartfelt letter expressing all the same feelings of friendship, connection and history that I feel for her. And that got me bawling AGAIN. I miss her, have missed her for years, and wish more than ever that we’d managed to move to Maine so we could see each other all the time.
I’m so grateful that our friendship isn’t the kind that’s tested by time and distance. Kim always has been and always will be my best friend forever.