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Two peas

February 5, 2012

I’ll never forget the moment she walked into my life.  I was all of eighteen years old.  It wasn’t the first time I’d met her; she was actually the sister of a dear friend’s fiance, and we’d both been part of a traveling choir associated with a college campus church.  Neither of us had really given the other any attention, though.  She was a cute soprano and she dressed in uppity preppy clothing.  I was an alto, shlepping sweatshirts.  Even though our group was small, our paths really didn’t cross much.

Until the spring quarter of our freshman year, that is.  Theatre 100.

Theatre 100 was a huge class that met in a giant auditorium.  On the first day of class I showed up and sat down with the rest of the crowd.  I looked across the auditorium and there she was…and at the same time she looked over and there I was.  We both smiled politely, and she slowly got up, gathered her things, and made her way to the seat next to me.  I could tell she wasn’t wild about the idea, but we’d both been raised to be nice mid-western girls, and it would have been rude for us to maintain our solitary positions in that situation.  And so we made our mamas proud and sat together.  That is probably the last thing we did for a good long time that made our mamas proud, though we took great pains that they not find that out.

I remember two things about class that day.  The first thing is that our professor had a serious case of the DTs.  The second is that he showed us a film to introduce us to the history of theatre.  And in that film there was a goofy little cartoon clip of a bunch of monks.    They chanted:

“What is the shape of the world?”

(answer) “It is flat…”

“What happens if you go past the edge?”

(answer) “You fall off…

We both began laughing our fool heads off.  And in that instant, our friendship was both forged and cemented.  Best friends for life, glued together by the same twisted sense of humor.

It turned out she’d been borrowing her roommate’s clothing.  There was nothing uppity-preppy about her.  We were close to being the same person, except she filtered it through being the baby of the family, and I filtered it through being the firstborn in a family.  In fact, her mother once introduced me to a friend as “This is Lisa.  She’s just like Ruthie.”  She said it in a way that you could tell she was both pleased and exasperated.  I mean…two of her daughter, so how could she not love me?  Except it meant there were TWO of her daughter, and there really wasn’t enough hair dye in Ohio to cover the consequences of that!

Our junior year of college Ruth and I rented an apartment we affectionately referred to as “the roach tube”.  Our grades weren’t so hot that year.  We ate a lot of ice cream from the convenience store across the corner from our apartment, at least until we caught the owner with his finger jammed up his nose.  We both religiously watched Little House On The Prairie reruns, hoping to see the episode where Mary went blind.  It was the holy grail of all Little House episodes.  We were warped, but we were the same kind of warped and that meant we had far too much fun for our own good.

I could tell Life-With-Lisa-and-Ruth stories for a long time.  About her squonking car.  About our retarded cat, Abby-Normal.  About why we called our apartment the Roach Tube.  About our crazy Lebanese neighbor and his stoner roommate.  About lusting after the clothes at The Limited, back when they were much cooler than they are now.  About eating bowls of cake batter.  About road trips.  About visits to the Bulk Big Bear, which was the greatest of all grocery stores because we were fascinated by food in barrels.  About her frequently locking herself out of the apartment and then being unable to wake me up to let her in (I was a VERY sound sleeper in those days!).  About becoming Ear Sisters.  About laughing through Beaches, which other people said was touching and would make us cry if we saw it together. About her spilling rotten yogurt on me, which was the true test of our friendship.  About the joys and pains of being best friends when you’re young and stupid and know it all.

When I married in 1985 and moved from the area in 1986, we both knew there was a good chance we’d never live near one another again.  That has turned out to be true, unfortunately.  And yet, our lives have somehow kept pace with one another.  My third child and her first child were born six days apart.  My fourth and her fourth were born less than 24 hours apart.  She went on to have two more children, so she wins that prize, but our lives as wives, moms, and general zoo-keepers have kept us on the same page, along with our shared outlook on all things funny (which is almost everything, to the dismay of our husbands).  If we go months without talking, all we have to do is pick up the phone and it seems like no time has passed. It’s not the events of life that keep us together.  It’s the us in us that keeps us together.

This story would be great if it ended there, because I’m not sure everyone is blessed with this kind of friendship.  But it gets even better.  I’ve never talked about my adoption story here, which is a wild ride of a story in and of itself, one that seems to keep unfolding over time.  But last year my biological siblings and I found out that we had a sister our bio-mom hadn’t mentioned.  That much isn’t surprising; she failed to mention a lot of things, and so life with my bio-family is sort of like opening a giant box which has another box inside, which has another box inside, which has another box inside…and there are still boxes yet to come, I’m sure.  But this sister we discovered was raised in the same hometown that Ruth was.  When my new sister chatted me up on Facebook the day we all found out about one another and I found out where she was raised, I asked her if she knew Ruth’s family.

Turns out, she is Ruth’s family.  She had been adopted by one of Ruth’s relatives.  Ruth and I were always pretty sure we were related.  Now we have proof!  We may not share DNA, but that’s just pesky details.  We share a relative, so therefore we are related!

I don’t think Ruth’s mom has recovered from this news yet.

God does funny stuff.  Sometimes I think about how He put two small town Ohio girls together, two girls who were both the best and the worst thing for each other, and used them to keep one another grounded far beyond the years they actually got to hang out with one another.  I don’t know what the future holds but I still hold out hope that one day we’ll get to live near one another, or at least close enough that we can both drive a little, meet for lunch, and spend the afternoon being ridiculous before we have to drive back home and act normal.  It would be nice.  It would be better than nice.

Happy Birthday, Ruth.  I’m a day late, sure, and maybe still a few dollars short, but I can still spring for a pint of Velvet ice cream from Burdette’s for you, assuming Herb isn’t too busy picking his nose to ring me out.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. bethkvogt permalink
    February 5, 2012 12:36 am

    “It’s the us in us that keeps us together.”


    One of your best posts yet, Lisa.

  2. Christa permalink
    February 5, 2012 8:05 am

    I knew I’d be in trouble if I read this. I am in a puddle…NO RUTH, I’m not ready for the surgery yet!! A puddle of tears…happy, sad, scarey, etc. all kinds! I was initially confused by the preppie clothing! I love both of my baby sisters!

  3. Kellie permalink
    February 5, 2012 8:39 am

    Beautiful tribute, Lisa! And btw, I do remember when the clothes at The Limited were cooler…

  4. Joann permalink
    February 5, 2012 9:22 am

    What a beautiful story, absolutely beautiful. Would love to see the two of you together, you could probably make money from that!!

  5. February 23, 2012 8:39 pm

    I love this!

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