01 02 03 Prone to Wander: I woke up thinking about her, and I’m not sure why. 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

I woke up thinking about her, and I’m not sure why.

A quick glance at the calendar told me today is her birthday, so maybe that’s why. Or maybe it’s because my son had his best friend over last night, and as I watched all the communication between them that is not even verbal, their inside jokes, looks, smirks, eye rolls, I couldn’t help but think back to Serenity. She was my best friend in 4th grade and the grades after that, and although her name is Serenity, she preferred to be called Sunny for short, so I called her Sunny bird. We met in 4th grade on MCA’s basketball team. Neither of us was really into it, but we kind of tried. She was maybe going to MCA the next year, and every day I would call her house to get the status of the decision.

“Hello?” her mom answered.
“Is Serenity there?”
“Just a minute.”
(Phone going through hands, some stumbling around)
“Hi Renee!”
“Are you coming to MCA next year?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“Ok. Talk to you later!” I would hang up.

Later, during the many sleepovers we had, she told me that she wished I had talked longer on the phone—that it hurt her feelings when I hung up so abruptly. “I’m sorry,” I would try to explain... "I just had a question and needed an answer. I didn’t know you wanted to talk longer.”

She did end up going to MCA the following year for fifth grade. Our teacher was Mr. Smith, an older soft-spoken gentleman who always wore a different belt buckle and played basketball with us during recess. That year I learned about Florence Nightingale and wrote a report about her and stayed up one night writing and reading. This was my first documented all nighter in my school career.

In school, Serenity sat in the desk behind me, and she ate saltine crackers and cheese a lot during class and passed me notes, folded into unique designs. The designs were way fancier than the actual notes, and it was fun to spend five minutes opening a note to see her splashy cursive: Hi! Want to swing instead of playing ball today?

Serenity and I did not play basketball in fifth grade; we decided on cheerleading and softball instead.

I spent lots of nights and days at her three-story house in downtown Princeton West Virginia right off the main street. I remember on Saturdays we had to clean her bathroom and vacuum before we could do anything fun, and our fun consisted of walking the mile or so to Jason’s market to buy Carmelo bars, cotton candy gum, Cow Tails, and peach Nehis. We then walked to the cemetery down the road and made up stories about the people who had passed while we chomped on our gum and blew big bubbles. One time a black haired man sat cross legged on one of those above ground graves. (I don’t know what they are actually called). We watched him for a few minutes, made up a story that he was probably a serial killer, and then trudged back to her house. Suddenly, we felt a little weird, turned around and saw him walking after us. We began running, our softball training kicking us into high gear, turning down random streets, but he was still there. He was right there behind us, running. Finally, we flew into her front door and slammed it hard behind us, just seconds from being kidnapped and killed by the guy who sat on a grave in the cemetery. What a close one. We would retell that story for years, each time adding another dramatic detail. He had a knife. He snarled at us. We nearly died that day.

One time she was snowed in at my house for a week. Or wait, maybe her parents went out of town and she stayed at my house for a week, and it just happened to be snowing. I can’t remember. Anyway, she decided to leave around 100 notes for my parents around to the house, to thank them for letting her stay. Some in cabinets, some in bookshelves, some behind the TV. Each one was specific, “Thank you for letting me use your toilet,” or “Thank you for letting me eat your peanut butter.” We collected those notes for years to come, and there may still be some still hidden around that house nestled in the mountains of West Virginia.

I think of my time with Serenity with such fondness. We were pretty innocent creatures, just trying to figure out life and love and other stuff. I still remember specific conversations and how I felt when I was with her, which was safe.

She moved to Oklahoma when we were in High School, and I felt pain, like I had lost a body part, maybe a right kidney. We sent letters and she still folded them into fancy designs before she plopped them in the envelope. This was before cell phones, so if we wanted to call each other, we had to use the house phone and could only talk a few minutes since it was long distance, and at this point, I was better at talking for longer on the phone, and the 15 minutes were never ever enough. We lost touch over the years, yet when I see her pictures and posts on Facebook, I smile, and think of our treks to the cemetery with our Carmelo bars and peach Nehis, and I am transported back to fifth grade and am safe again.

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