If your best friend is a blogger, that is
I was sitting in the back seat of Pamela’s navy blue Toyota Camry, peering out the window with as much intensity as a bus tour participant trying to memorize once-in-a-lifetime scenes passing at the low speed the windy residential road required. It was my second trip riding that route that day, now in reverse, but I was nonetheless equally lost on roads that might have been familiar 35 years before.
Of course, Pamela had distracted me during the first trip by painting her nails a deep burgundy and waving her fingers out her partially opened passenger side window to speed drying. Though I found it entertaining, I was thankful her toenails hadn’t needed an extra coat of lacquer. I could imagine her willingness to wiggle her little piggies through the opening to aid drying.
Behind the wheel was her dutiful husband Clayton, mostly quiet as he drove the three of us to and from the celebration of our pastor’s life. The service for our pastor had featured a number of speakers allotted five minutes each to recall the impact of this faith-filled life. None managed to stay within even double that prescribed time. Bookended with hymns performed on bagpipes, the service ended two hours after it began.
It had been like a reunion, although recognizing age-changed people I had loved more than 30 years ago was made more complicated by face masks that hid our tell-tale features. Before and after the service to honor our special head pastor, we engaged in conversation with friends from the youth group I had left behind when I chose to attend college, marry, and raise a family elsewhere.
“We’re having our once-every-35-years sleepover,” Pamela joked to various friends at the service. Alas, that was too close to the truth.
The last time I had seen most of my old friends we were “nesters,” still dependent on our parents’ nests. Now most of us are “empty nesters” or soon to be. Thirty-five years is a long time. COVID-19 kept many people away, of course, and the service was live-streamed for them. But it was a joy to see those old friends who dared to come, even masked and at a distance.
It was a weekend for remembering. Pamela and I had remained fast friends through the years, though I only rarely saw her in person. That I was spending the weekend with her and her family was a treat indeed. The memorial service and an impromptu youth group reunion — held outside, six feet apart, of course — had lured me to my childhood hometown, along with an invitation to stay at their home.
Pam and I already had shopped, enjoyed frozen yogurt at our favorite place, and stayed up late the night before chatting.
The lengthy service — nearly 10 different speakers that shared different aspects of our pastor’s ministry — made us laugh, cry, and reflect on our own lives. I wished I’d whipped out my notebook to take notes, as the messages were that good.
And so hours after we’d arrived for the memorial service, I sat in the back seat of Pam’s car once again. Our conversation centered on our longtime memories rather than those from the service just ended.
As our conversation landed on people and places and events prompted by encounters with old friends we’d seen, we settled on a youth group camp Pamela and I had attended together toward the end of our high-school career. Every summer, our youth leaders planned a weeklong retreat with outdoor activities and multiple teaching times. It was always fun and inspirational.
“Remember that young girl who so completely transformed at the camp?” Pamela asked.
I immediately knew who she meant. I pictured the unattractive young girl, her spirit as bound as her tight curls pulled into a severe ponytail. We had helped release her inner and outer beauty during camp.
“The diamond we helped reveal by cutting away all the carbon,” I said, dramatically but truthfully; that was how I had viewed the encounter. “I can’t believe we had the audacity to style her hair.”
The young girl had undergone a complete spiritual transformation, Pamela recalled, followed by the complete makeover a group of us gave her. It was a transformation that lasted well beyond that summer week. She was utterly changed, glowing with happiness and beauty that permeated her whole being.
In the midst of our awe-filled recollection of that moment, I abruptly changed to another memory from that week.
“That was the camp where you made fun of me because of my eyebrow grooming!” I told Pam.
“I’m so sorry!!!”
She was immediately apologetic, thinking she’d been a bully or otherwise unkind to me.
“Oh no! I thought it was hysterical; it was so funny I remember your comment to this day,” I hurried to assure her.
At the camp, that young girl wasn’t the only one who needed a physical transformation. Pam was beside me in the concrete block bathroom when I stood before the mirror and proceeded to use the same razor I used on my legs to mow the patch of hair between my eyebrows. Pam had been horrified.
“Oh, I just shave that part about once a month so I don’t have a unibrow,” I had told her, attempting to assure her that it was OK.
“Once a month whether it needs it or not.”
Pam’s quip was sarcastic and had made both of us laugh at the time. Of course, my brows did need a good mowing — at least once a month! I had a perfectly good, slightly dull razor to do the job. Plucking my brows had never occurred to me.
Until Pam’s comment, of course.
“I think of you every time I now pluck my eyebrows,” I told Pamela, attempting to convince her the comment had been helpful rather than harmful.
“In fact, I’ve already included it in a future blog post.”
To this day, I smile when I remember Pam’s comment from that summer. Back then, it also gave me enough shame to consider better ways to groom my unruly brows. Trust me. That was a good thing.
“Now I’m afraid to say anything to you for fear it will end up in your blog!” she exclaimed.
“That’s why I have so few friends,” I said, understandingly. “They know I use them for blog fodder.”
Clayton chose that moment to speak.
“Oh, so that’s the real meaning of BFF,” he said, laughing, “Blog Fodder Friend.”
We all laughed.
But it is true — a little. I mentally cataloged those who might be called Blog Fodder Friends. Diana, Brittany, Beryl, my mother-in-love and father-in-love, my mother and father and sisters and brothers, past roommates, my students, my interns, my co-workers, my pastors, my teachers.
Connie, my workout partner, had been the subject or an honorable mention in 36 posts. I distinctly remember her warning people at the health club to be careful what they say in front of me “or you might wind up in her blog posts.” She doesn’t really mind, of course.
Certainly, I’ve written about my husband and children (sometimes named, sometimes published, sometimes aware that they were the subject — and sometimes not). I’ve written about Pamela too.
When you have people in your life, you have plenty of stories to tell. And I like to give credit where credit is due.
(And, of course, I documented the conversation in the car. I did send Pamela a text telling her the title of my new post and she responded with “Love it!!!” She’s OK being my BFF. In both senses of the initialism.)