Monday, September 22, 2008

My Friend Terri....

I've been thinking a lot about my friend Terri lately. She and I went to school together all the way from first grade until graduation, except for the one year I moved away in sixth grade. We were both chubby cheerleaders for our 8th grade team, until Terri moved on to play basketball and I moved on to the band and drill team.

We were both part of a large circle of friends in high school, though not the I'm-coming-over-to-spend-the-night-at-your-house kind of friends. We went to the same parties and had many friends in common. After graduation we didn't see each other terribly often, although after I married my baby-daddy there was an unfortunate incident in a back bedroom at our house when a windshield got broken. Nuff said about that.

Terri majored in journalism and worked for several newspapers in our state. She worked for a while in Plains, the town where former president Jimmy Carter is from. She became editor of a small town newspaper in North Georgia, and our motorcycle ride this past weekend took us through the middle of that town, right around the courthouse and the town square. Maybe that's one reason she's been on my mind so much lately. That and the fact that when she bought a motorcycle several years ago, I was absolutely in awe of her. At that time I had no concept of ever having one myself. At that time I was still respecting my mother's wishes that I never have, ride, or stare too long at a motorcycle. I remember someone saying Terri had bought a Harley. She said, "It's not a Harley, it's a Honda. But it's a bad-ass Honda."

Terri never married or had children, though she was devoted to her niece and nephew. She loved fiercely, and I think she dated a few guys after high school, but she remained single. THAT is someone's great loss.

Terri was very overweight; she was probably classified as morbidly obese, although I cannot see her that way. She was flamboyant in dress and make-up, and she lived as large as she was. It TOOK a large body to hold all that vibrancy in. She was funny and smart and big-hearted and made up for the absence of husband and children in her life by constantly giving back to her community and her world.

A few years ago, four of us girls from high school -- Terri, Amanda, Susan, and me -- got together and spent the weekend at Susan's condo on Isle of Palms, South Carolina. We lapsed right back into talking just like we were fresh out of high school instead of almost 30 years (at that time) removed from it. Terri talked about a guy she was dating, and she seemed to care a lot for him, but he was a little hesitant to make a commitment. She asked us, one of whom had been married for 20 years to the same person, one who had been married twice, one who had been married three times, our advice on everything from relationships in general to sex. We laughed and laughed and laughed. We ate and shopped in Charleston and walked on the beach in the frigid air and visited Susan's brother's condo on Patriot's Point.

Terri was the kind of person who could get away with asking -- or saying -- things that the rest of us only thought. And believe me, reticence has never been MY strong point. But Terri could get away with things that even I couldn't. When we had raided Susan's brother's liquor cabinet, and I had played on his gorgeous baby grand piano, and we had looked out at the mist over the bay (harbor? sound?), Terri asked Susan how much that condo would go for if her brother should sell it. Susan said this and that about the market, fluctuations, factors to consider, blah blah blah, and Terri said, "Susan, just cut the bullshit. How much?" That was just Terri's way. And no one loved her any less for it. Maybe it was the journalist in her. Susan, absolutely not offended, told her what she wanted to know.

Before Terri got up on that Saturday morning of our get-away weekend, Susan and Amanda said they thought we should go to the mall and have makeovers done. I was thrilled at the suggestion, but thought their motivation was a little high-handed. Seems they thought that Terri needed some expert advice on how to tone down her garish make-up. Terri's make-up was legendary. And it's not like it was an accident; it was part of her. And it wasn't like she wasn't aware of its effect. She liked it! Still, off to the mall we went. Terri and I spent the most money, buying everything the make-up artist (technician? isn't everybody a technician these days?) used on our faces. Then she and I took a buggy ride around Charleston while Amanda and Susan shopped.
While we were on the buggy ride, my cell phone rang. Our tour guide stopped his little spiel, and everyone else on the buggy looked at me in amusement. Or they glared in irritation. I'd like to think it was the former. It was Amanda on the phone. "Do you want anything from the liquor store?" I thought everyone on the buggy could hear her, and although I desperately did, I wasn't about to place an order for a fifth of rum with an entire buggy full of people listening. "No," I whispered. "That's okay."

Seems that's not all they shopped for while Terri and I were playing tourists. When we got back to the condo, they presented Terri with a self-help book they had bought to help her with her relationship issues. It was called, "Oral Sex for Dummies." I'm serious. We had many good laughs, more and more raucous the more we drank, and took turns reading out loud from the book. By the end of the night we were hysterical, our sides aching from laughing so much.

The next morning, we got up and made coffee and lounged around before we ventured out on our last day together. Terri was the last one to emerge from her bedroom. We had given her the one that overlooked the beach, and she slept with the sliding glass door open so she could hear the ocean, even though it was FREEZING outside and the wind was howling. When she emerged from her bedroom that morning, her glorious makeover was gone, and in its place was her trademark caricature of herself. She grinned as only Terri could grin and said, "Y'all. I can't just go cold turkey."

I took many pictures that weekend, and after I got home I decided to make each of us a scrapbook of memories. I bought four identical 7"x7" scrapbooks, had four prints made of each picture, and made the scrapbooks as alike as I could with the supplies I had. It was tedious, but I put a lot of love into those little books. I sent one to each of the other girls, and their reactions made me know it was worth every second I had spent on the project.

That was in January. In July Terri died suddenly of a heart attack at the wheel of her car. She was leaving an event for one of her many charitable organizations, and the friend who was with her managed to get the car stopped. But there was no saving Terri. She was 45. When Amanda, Susan, and I saw each other at her funeral, we looked at each other aghast and said, "Oh my God, her mother is going to find that book about oral sex."
Her mother and brother both told me how much that little scrapbook had meant to Terri, and on the front of the program for her memorial service was this picture that I had taken the weekend we spent together at the condo. When I decided to make the scrapbooks, I had no idea why I was doing it. Now I do.


Ann(ie) said...

OMG. I'm sitting here like an idiot blubbering. She sounds like a girl I would SO adore! I'm so sorry for your loss. She was way too young. =( I'm glad you have such fun memories to cherish at the very least. xo.

Cathy said...

What a wonderful tribute to a special friend. It brought tears to my eyes.

Anonymous said...

Can you send some tissues to Hoschton, please!?

Okay, you're really good at this blogging thing!