When my oldest started 2nd grade, we had a conversation about friendship. I wanted to emphasize the importance of the connections that she'd be making at her young age.
Me: Marley, did you know that Yanique and I have been friends since she was your age?
Marley: What? Really?!!!
Me: Yep, we were in the same 2nd grade class. I was 6 and she was 7.
Marley: Wow mom, that's a long time.
Me: It is. How many years is that?
(I throw in math questions whenever I can.)
Marley: You're 36 now, so you've been friends for...30 years. OH MY GOODNESS!!!
Me: Yes girl. That's more than 3 quarters of my life. She's been a part of my life longer than she hasn't. What I'm getting at is that, the relationships you form in the 2nd grade are ones that can be with you throughout your life.
"Friends are the most important ingredient to the recipe called life."
My first memory of Yanique is from the early days of the 2nd grade. She was a new student, fresh from Jamaica. A nervous young girl arriving in a new country, attending a new school and being surrounded by new faces. We were excited about having a new student in class but I'm sure it was overwhelming for her. One day she came in and was visibly upset. The teacher asked for volunteers to escort her to the guidance counselor's office. I sat on the edge of my seat and shot my hand in the air. I got picked and decided that I'd take this job very seriously. As we walked the halls, random kids came up to us, asking questions and being nosy. I batted them away and made sure they backed off. In my young mind, I'd appointed myself as her protector. We got her to the office unscathed and from that point on a beautiful friendship flourished.
Taiwanna was a bit of a different story. Although we spent the first years of our education in the same building, we didn't know each other. Our bond began in the 6th grade. I don't remember the first encounter but I do remember seeing this girl and thinking 'Thank goodness, I'm not the only girl taller than all of the boys." We called ourselves the Amazons and connected as we stood at the end of every line together.
Our parents played a huge role in keeping us together. When we were in junior high school, we attended a Gifted and Talented school that was very far from our homes. As a result a bunch of us were bussed from our neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Flatbush all the way to Coney Island. We were a bunch of black kids, most of us first generation Americans traveling to a predominantly white school where we only knew each other. Our parents would meet on a regular basis to ensure that we were all moving smoothly through the transition and adjusting well to our new environment. The closeness of our parents reinforced our bond and kept us connected.
We were together for a few years. It always made the friendship easier when we were in the same space. Separating for high school was the true test. Could we hold on to friendships although we didn't see each other on a daily basis? Could we maintain these friendships as we began to build new ones? At least we were in the same borough during high school, but college rolled around and things changed. Before my mother died, I had plans to go away. Someplace not too far but far enough for me to experience a little independence. After that dreadful day, plans changed. I applied to schools within the NYC area so that I could stay home. My dad was in no position to send me away just a few short months after losing his wife. I stayed, Yanique stayed, but Taiwanna left. Our friendship was tested.
Throughout this 30 year friendship, we've faced many trials and tribulations, overcome obstacles and dealt with situations that could have permanently broken us. There were some that actual did separate us, temporarily but when you realize that certain relationships are necessary, you have no other option than to figure it out and make it work. We've been through breakups, make ups, births, deaths, marriages, illnesses and more. Fortunately, we've made it out on the other side. Today our kids are buddies and we're figuring out how to navigate through this next phase together. I could not imagine life without my ace boon coons. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I'm not a hugger. I rarely hug my homies, but I absolutely love them.