Well, the hubbub of Valentine’s Day, hearts and roses and a day off for some and sales on Presidents Day is done. But that doesn’t mean this mind hasn’t mused over the meaning of at least one of those days — Valentine’s Day. And Valentines of a different kind. The best kind. Best friends.
Remember the big ol’ shoe box full of Valentines you got from your elementary school classmates? Remember your kids getting that slew hearts and of toting that home? It was mandatory, yet the feelings fostered in those classrooms among a passel of kids with eager, open hearts, were not.
For some, or many, the simple gesture of scrolling a heart and silly message on a tiny cartooned piece of cardboard was the start of a lifetime of milestone moments and crazy memories engraved in the ol’ ticker.
This is a Valentine for best friends, the irreplaceable antics endured with them and, most of all, a true love like no other — friendship.
This scene takes us back to a couple of best friends since second grade and an unwitting RFH class president, the RFH stage, entertainment at the hands of primo pranksters and lots of laughs forevermore.
I was the actress. She was the chief prankster and troublemaker. There were actually three of us. A threesome of best buds. Each with her own brand of kooky fierceness. And blood-sister loyalty. The other escaped this escapade. I’m not sure how she managed to do that, but she did.
There were rehearsals in the basement at babysitting jobs with a plastic record player, a constant replay of the song Honey Bun from South Pacific, dance moves choreographed, if you could call it that, us wanting to kill each other and laughs … lots of laughs. I made her do it. I still can’t believe she did. That’s OK, she made me do lots of things, too, with that everlasting threat of “I’m your friend! I would do it for you!” Call her the devil. Always raising a little Hell.
She was Stephanie DeSesa. We were Fair Haven girls. We met at Knollwood School in second grade. She was my friend from the age of 7 when her dad drove us to the bowling alley to tote some giant balls and strike out — a lot. The toting was never a fear for us. We had guts, in a sissy kind of way. Guts to laugh really hard and loud — and sometimes snort and spit a little. Guts to From that first day of ball-grabbing and toting on, it was one hell of a ride for us. Ups, downs, good, bad and crazy, oh, so crazy … but always memorable like nothing else.
Nothing like it. That old best friend who knows all your kinks and never tries to flat-iron them out. That friend who rolls with the best and worst of you and you with her, enduring many traditional Valentines and exacting girlfriend revenge on some bad boyfriend with some shameless stalking, telling off and prank phone calling.
Yeah, the advent of caller ID had her in a tizzied state of depression back in the 80s. That’s because she was that one who was always up for some standing by you and a little mischief to make you feel better. Of course, you did it back, but under the threat of “I would do it for you!” That’s a Valentine of the best kind. Really.
So, when it’s your turn to drag her into a Lucy & Ethel role of humiliation and zaniness, the “I would do it for you!” works and you end up having a blast and making unforgettable memories. And that’s what you are left with, and that’s a lot, when that irreplaceable her is gone.
Then, when the day comes that you get too real for one another and step over the best bud familiarity contempt line and, without warning, she’s suddenly gone, you remember that you always have those times, her heart. You cry, you smile, you laugh. And you remember.
Steph passed away very suddenly in 2011. The other Musketeer in this zany Fair Haven-raised Knollwood and RFH brood met her on the other side last year. They were my funny Valentines. I was theirs. Tradition be damned.
Some moments on the stage that I dragged them to were captured. They, priceless, stained with tears and dog-eared now, remain a snapshot of some of the best times of my heart’s life.
So, “stay little Valentine stay” … In my life, I loved you both more.
Sometimes a box of chocolates and flowers, or a crock of soup and some crap and chocolate lips, just don’t make the heart swell the same way as lifetime friendship.
Not that there’s anything wrong with a little confection and flora or a quality beau, for that matter. Just sayin …
When you know this kind of friendship on Earth is over, you remember, as this tribe’s old Bozz Scaggs favorite mused, “Best of friends never part … best of fools that love forever …”
Don’t forget to remember. Always let those lifetime connections know what they mean to you. Call them. Quarrel. Make up. Be you with no reservation. Let them be them and embrace all of them. Hug them a lot. Text them with a little ditty, just calling to say you love them “ladeedoodahdayyyy.” Silly? Who cares? They do. You do.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your forever friends and best of beaus!
The staged moments captured are at the 1975 Freshman Follies when Ward Tietz, class president, got drafted by the crazy squad to get all dolled up with a hula skirt, coconut shell top and a festive cigar and dance a little to our Honey Bun from South Pacific.
Poor Ward ended up with a very itchy rash from those coconuts and Steph and I lost our hats and composure mid-song over the sight of him.
The other, blurrier of the moments, is on stage at Knollwood after all three of us had our first year together as friends (Daryl joined us in 7th grade) in Anything Goes. Cracking up and dancing in their mother’s shoes, it was the start of something very big — a lifelong friendship.