I have a BFF… best friend forever. I am so lucky to have her but our friendship was hard-earned, because of that, I don’t think there is anything that will ever ‘break us’ from standing up for each other and encouraging one another. In fact, we are such BFFs that she decided to get diagnosed with fibromyalgia as well! Oh No! Sadly, she recently received the diagnosis, but I suspect she’s had it for many years.
Holly was the typical tomboy, athlete, outspoken, and loud child in school… I was not. Shy, withdrawn, frightened, quiet me. Until my mom sent me to a summer program for dance and drama. I just completed the 7th grade. I literally cried when she dropped me off at the bus to go to the college campus 40 miles away for a summer program. I got on that bus and I knew NO ONE. I was from a town of 400 people, I was USED to KNOWING who was around me. I changed completely after that summer. I went into the 8th grade quite sure of myself (thank you, Mom). And now, Holly didn’t seem so different from me.
We became besties after drinking too many vodka slushies at a party! Yes, we were underage, but you tend to grow up fast in a small town. Free time usually meant parties to let off a little steam. We often ran with a group, but when it came down to brass tacks, it was Holly and me. We were besties by the end of the 8th grade.
Let me explain a bit about life in a small town, I have been questioned as to the ‘purity’ of being brought up in a small town. I do not know how to answer that. I’ll give you a quick overview of my experience growing up in a town of about 400 people, and you can decide…
Growing up in a small town, you tend to become a miniature adult at an early age. Responsibility is expected, and lack of maintaining the respect of your family and the community was ill-advised. By the 5th grade, I took care of most of the home chores as my parents owned a general variety store and were always at work. We had a family of 8 to support. Everyone pitched in with chores and worked where they could. The older kids worked at the store during the week, so I stayed home with the little ones. I cooked, did laundry, and cleaned. On the weekend I would work at the store too as there were shelves to be stocked and floors to be vacuumed and mopped.
I always went to church and bible study. I was Confirmed. I helped with Sunday school until I started teaching a Sunday School class when I was 14. I taught Bible school in the summer too. Some small-town kids (especially farmer’s kids) start driving cars, trucks, tractors, combines, and utility vehicles around age 13. I was driving by the time I was 14 as we cared for our town’s cemetery and we had a little lake home where we would stay for part of the summer. I was allowed to drive to run errands for my parents.. but I was told to stay off the tar and take the gravel roads! (This was where I met all the other under-age drivers, didn’t make much sense to me to make me drive the gravel roads … but it was fun!)
I had a few steady babysitting gigs but decided I wanted a real job when my parent’s sold the store and went into real estate. I was hired at McDonald’s in a more extensive town, 12 miles away. I started the summer before my 16th birthday. I would get rides to work and when I turned 16, I was usually the one giving the rides. When I hit 18, I added a second job as a live-in counselor every other weekend. I worked with mentally challenged adults, I was their ‘in-home’ counselor. By my senior year, I was working two jobs and completing my senior year. I had college to pay for and time was running out! I still graduated with honors and kept my live-in position when I started my first year of college. So no, small-town life is not dull! There was a lot to do and small-town kids grow up damn fast.
Holly and I grew up in that small town and remain friends as we are now far into our adult lives. Whether Holly is visiting me in Minnesota or back in Washington where she lives with her husband and son, she is with me. There are frequent calls, texts, encouragements, and so much laughter. It is Holly’s voice I remember on the phone when I was in the hospital so many times for pancreas issues. It is Holly’s voice I remember when all I could do was lay on the couch and cry through the pain. It is Holly who never questioned me but kept me truthful, faithful and sane.
I moved to Seattle, Washington eventually. I lived about a two hours drive from Holly. I lived in Seattle for five years and was a Director for a Work Release for men serving out the last few months of their prison sentence… but that is a story for another time.