Happy birthday, Paula!!

Today is my bestest best friend’s birthday. My BFF, as my teenaged daughters might say. But she really is. Paula is one of those friends you can go three months without talking to, and when you do reconnect, you just pick up where you left off as if not a day had passed.

Paula and I met in sixth grade. We went to different schools, but our two elementary bands came together for concerts twice a year and Paula and I were the tall, skinny blonde flutes (with a crush on the drummer) who wore big plastic glasses and had long straight hair. Somehow we sensed an affinity even then.

When we got to be eighth graders, we started playing in the Junior Band in the high school and sat beside each other every day. Together we thought up Fantasia-like images to go with the music we played and occasionally I would draw them to make them real. She gave me a nickname–I’d always wanted a nickname–Mur. I was her first friend ever to have a step-parent. I was probably also her first friend ever to live in such modest, modest means.

When I turned 15, my stepfather took a job as groundskeeper at the local country club and we moved into an empty hundred-year-old farmhouse on the ninth fairway (after moving out all the bales of hay and bags of fertilizer) that was only about 100 yards from the green. Golfers frequently “played through” my flower beds and occasionally my parents’ bedroom. Paula’s mom worked at the clubhouse (was it Wednesdays?) and she came with her most days. Summers found us crashed poolside. Summer evenings we would prowl the empty course and clubhouse and see what telling abandoned objects we could discover, what vending machines we could get to dispense, and then tell our secrets sitting on the diving board, swinging our legs and staring into the deep end. Two large trees on the practice range became our respective “houses” and we would call each other on our twig phones and talk about our fabulous husbands and children (twins, of course, a girl and a boy). Did we have jobs in our imaginary futures? I can’t remember.

As we got older, we went on double dates, performed in school plays, agonized over boys, shared hotel beds on school trips…and shared secrets. Always. We had slumber parties–oh, how I loved her happy, raucous family–and “shopped” our way through every Sears catalogue that came in the mail, drooling over what we wanted, decrying the “geeky” stuff (gag a maggot!). We both watched helplessly as someone we loved gave in to the lure of alcoholism.

Today, we share parenting joys and trials, a love of good, wholesome food, strong and meaningful (but hard-won) relationships with our respective spouses, and absolute devotion to family and friends. Paula is my bosom buddy, my bestest, best, and if I could say one thing to Paula today (actually, I’ve already called her and talked for an hour and a half, but you know) I would say this: “Honey, you…are my shining star–don’t you go away.” 😉

I love you, PaJane!






5 responses to “Happy birthday, Paula!!”

  1. Kendall Avatar

    Happy birthday to Paula too! But really, Mary, I wanted to know if you could give me any inside information about your MFA experience at Queens? Your name was mentioned on the PW forum. Any details are appreciated.
    Kendall at smithsul@mail.usf.edu

  2. Mary Akers Avatar

    Sure, Kendall. I loved my Queens experience. I just emailed you!

  3. Maryanne Stahl Avatar

    happy bday, Paula!

    Mur, you childhood sounds almost idyllic to me. I can imagine the hardships–or maybe I can’t–but the idea of being surrounded by nature, even if mostly manicured, and not having to own it…anyway, it’s an ideal setting for a novel.

    but you know that.

  4. ERiCA Avatar

    Happy Birthday to Paula!

    This post was really nice of you. My bff’s bd is coming up in a couple weeks… maybe I should learn from your example and post something nice about her, too, when it gets closer.

    (How sad is it that I have to see other people being nice before it occurs to me myself? *sigh*)


  5. Jeanne Rhea Avatar

    I so relate to this post about best friends with time and distance between them.

    I have a friend who I met when we were nineteen while working for the state of Tennessee. We had the lowest paying jobs in the entire state system. Even though I moved on to other jobs and moved to Alaska for nearly twenty years, we still did not miss a beat any time we could got together. It is still that way. I may only see her once every couple of years, but not a thing has ever changed.

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