Forgive me, but I need to write more about my friend Tee. Even as I spent today working on important things for my company, I often found my thoughts wandering back to my child and teen years. It is so hard to believe that Tee is really gone. So I am trying to remember all the smallest things to keep the memories alive -- and to keep her spirit alive in my life and in my heart.
Tee, Em and I were all oldest children. There's something about daughters who are the oldest who tend to attract toward each other -- all my closest girlfriends in life have been firstborns. Like myself, Tee was also the only girl in her family. I think that is what helped bond us together. We needed sisters -- and found them in each other and in Em.
Tee was the first person I knew who actually had a KISS album -- on 8-Track, no less! GASP!!!! In our very conservative church, that would have caused mild coronaries in some people. They weren't even her folks -- I think an uncle had put them in the pile when he gave them their stereo. She also had a record player in her room, and I'll never forget the first two songs we played on there -- "So Nice To Be With You" (Gallery) and "Beach Baby" (I forget who did it). Tee was also an unabashed country fan. She really was country when country wasn't cool. She was a die-hard Alabama fan. Now at the time, I was so incredibly hip (or so I thought) because I knew who U2 was before anyone else. I would have d-i-e-d-died to listen to country. She didn't care. Because of her, I knew pretty much all of Alabama's 80's songs -- and as I later discovered, so did everyone else at our school. Closet Alabama fans, perhaps.
We had our share of slumber parties and sleepovers. I'm sure our mothers were all about ready to kill us the next morning, because God knows we got giggly and silly and everything else. I'll never forget one slumber party at my house, where I had a schedule printed on the back door of my room -- can you imagine "7:00-8:00 -- Listen to WANS; 8:00-8:30, do nails..." (like we were actually going to STOP listening to the radio at 8:00 precisely)... Makeup and hair and giggles and all sorts of craziness. This was repeated at least 3 or 4 times throughout the year. And we all I shared a die-hard love of Days of Our Lives. Oh my sweet Lord. If it wasn't me calling Em, it was me calling Tee at 2:00, saying, "OH MY GOD! Did you see that? What is going on? Oh my Lord!" Or trying to call either of them, getting a busy signal, and knowing that Em & Tee had gotten to each other first -- this was before conference calling! Bo, Patch, Shane, and "The Pawn" - no, it's Roman - no it's John Black - ah, whoever the hell you are..... they were all our men.
Tee was a cosmetologist. She went to "career center" -- only we still called it "vocational school" back then. And for her, it was a great vocation. Not only did she enjoy what she was doing and learning, but she was good at it. She was the best in her class. From 11th grade on until probably late 1989, when I was in college, she was my hairstylist. I would come home on weekends and schedule a home-cut with her. She was a natural, honestly! It is a shame that she stopped doing hair, and then her health didn't allow her to start again.
Tee only attended one prom -- her sophomore year with an ex-boyfriend who was a senior. He'd already bought the tickets. Her favorite aunt took her shopping and got her a beautiful red dress. She went and had a nice time -- okay, as nice as you can have with an ex that you don't particularly care for anymore. I was there too, as a hostess -- an "honor" given to the Top 8 sophomore girls (read: free labor). She didn't go as a junior or a senior because she only had the one formal dress and was afraid that everyone would say something about it. It did not matter to her that I knew for fact that some of the snootier gals were truly swapping dresses with their friends. She couldn't do it. She did wear it in the pageant one year. But that was it. She wore it twice, and it was a shame, because she looked great in it. I suppose that's a reason why I go to every dance I can, even if I have "nothing to wear" -- because life's too short not to have fun.
She had a mint-green Gremlin for her first car. I had forgotten all about the car until this very moment. A couple of years later, my then-college roommate was joking around with her boyfriend and he made a remark about a Gremlin. Stephanie looked at me and winked and said, "John, you're being mean. Annette's first car was a Gremlin." I took the exact description of Tee's mint-green Gremlin and wove a tale for him. I even tossed in tears about getting rid of the car..... When he left that night, Stephanie said, "That was great! How'd you come up with it?" She had no idea! Tee was also the first to buy a brand-new car, and it was a SHARP car (a Nissan Sentra, if I recall). Bright red, too!
Sometime in '88, I came home for a weekend and C of C just happened to be playing a nearby school. I got Tee to go with me, and we had a blast -- an absolute blast! I ran into a few folks I knew, and she was just amazed at all the people I'd met and the stories I had. We both grew up in teetotalling households, and she was the first person from "back home" to know that I not only drank on occasion but totally enjoyed it. She wasn't shocked -- and shared the same secret with me! I think it was the first moment that marked our true adulthood.
She was there for me when I had my hugest crush in college -- and there when I walked to her house (two houses down) one night and said, "Go walking with me." She immediately knew that things were going south in that relationship, and walked with me without saying a word until I was ready to talk. And like all good friends should, she immediately wrote him off as persona non grata in her world. She didn't know him from Adam, but he'd broken my heart, and that was enough.
In late '89, Tee inspired me, although in a roundabout way. It was a less-than-ideal semester -- from Hugo interrupting our lives and throwing us all into a whirlwind, to not seeing eye-to-eye with my roommate (and one of my dearest friends) to the point where I was barely civil to her (and now cannot fathom why). I came home needing a good laugh and friends who could perk me up and support me. I mentioned to my mother that I was going down to visit Tee. She got quiet and said, "Um, you can't." She then explained that Tee had moved out just the night before, after a huge row with her parents. Of course, self-centered me thought, "How could she DO that to me? She KNEW I was coming home this weekend. How DARE she?" But then I became very sad. Em had just gotten married that summer before and was expecting -- and in no condition to go out and celebrate or do any of the things that I now took for granted in college. And now Tee was gone. I worked over Christmas break in the offices at a textile mill (doing some catch-up work in their accounting department), and there were slow times. So I took a notebook with me and started writing poetry -- mostly about Tee. And how I felt about her leaving. I couldn't contact her -- didn't know how or where or who to call. I was never so lonely as I was that Christmas.
Then the next summer, Tee was married -- another year later, she had a daughter, just like Em. And things were never the same. That's life.
Everything must change, nothing stays the same
Everything must change, no one stays the same
The young become the old, and mysteries do unfold
That's the way of time, nothing and no one goes unchanged
There are not many things in life you can be sure of
Except rain comes from the clouds, sun lights up the sky
Hummingbirds do fly
-- from "Everything Must Change" by Quincy Jones
(sung at our baccalaureate service just before our HS graduation)
To Tee: In a couple of days, we will commit your body to the ground, with the sure and certain hope that one day we will see you again. I will remember. I will remember you whenever I hear an Alabama song, whenever I see a red formal gown (with hoop skirt to boot!), when I flip through high school yearbooks, at the reunion... hard to believe you will not be there, and that is just so not right. It is wrong on a thousand levels that we will be holding a picture (along with Jeff & David's) and not having you stand with us. I will remember you everytime I look at the house next door and then the house next to it, where you lived for a good part of my life -- or the house near the church, where you lived for a while. Whenever I see Em out and about, I will remember you as well. Whenever I have a chance to donate to breast cancer research, I will do so, and remember you. I will proudly wear a pink ribbon not just in October, but as often as possible, and I will remember you. Yes, my friend, my heart-sister, I will remember.