Thursday, May 17, 2018

An Ode To Page

Once upon a time, awkward twelve-year-old Natalie got into seventh grade orchestra with very few of the people she had been in orchestra with in elementary school. Having had a summer of frankly the beginnings of puberty and all the "joys" that come with it, she was a silent observer of her orch dork friends.

Page is one friend I can remember how I became friends with her. Although, even though I do remember it really wasn't anything specific. It was just: boom, hey we are totally friends now!

I remember admitting this to Page once, that when I first met her I wanted to be like her. She was hilarious and popular. She had awesome pool parties, which when I was invited to her first one I was honored to my very core. I became her shadow in orchestra and she always accepted my presence without any fanfare--which I loved because my telltale blush would have exploded across my face had she pointed me out. And if that had happened, I might not have been brave enough to return.

Our orchestra class played so many pranks on our high strung teacher that I'm sure we were the reason she quit several years later...we hadn't set the best example for the following classes who continued the pranks. They were never cruel just fun...but when you prank someone who doesn't know how to take a joke, I suppose they could appear cruel. Ms (I'll just call her this) did rip up a tissue box once, her face on fire and her eyes bulging to find the timer we had hidden in there (that was the last time we used the timer...she kept it under too close a watch).

Yet, it connected us.

At the end of eighth grade I remember sitting with Page and two other girls playing M.A.S.H. We had decided the first chair viola player--Pete--was going to marry Aunt Jemimah (yes, the syrup brand) and have thousands of pancake babies which they would adopt to McDonalds. (Man, we were such thirteen-year-olds). We reminisced about the Ching-Chong-Brothers (a band with Pete, another kid Flynn and a girl Lilly). At one point I liked both Pete and Flynn.

Side note: Flynn was the one kid I knew who ever asked me to dance at these gatherings called Stake Dances. It was right before he was going to move to another state--which at the time made me really sad. Yet, I felt honored to be asked to dance with him at his last dance in Arizona. Like I said, the smallest things can make someone so happy; and feel good about themselves as well. Especially because everyone knew Flynn was in love with a different girl.

Page and I grew closer in high school. We really connected when I started watching Vampire Diaries so I could understand what she and another kid were talking about. She was the one person in high school who read the very first version of the first book I had ever completed.

She called it our drug deal. I would print ten pages at a time and bring them in a folder for her to read in the orchestra room at lunch, and when we couldn't go to the orchestra room, I did my best to exchange it sneakily at the lunch table so my friends wouldn't ask about it. They never did (which sorta made me sad. I really wanted them to be interested in my writing, but it's my own fault for not telling them. I eventually told Layla and she loved it.), but I bet they only would have asked because of how awkward I was acting.

I clung to Page during the hardest time in high school where I felt I was so utterly different from my original friend group that I didn't know how to hang out with them at lunch anymore. It sucked when Page didn't make it to school, but it was good too. I needed to have my eyes open to remember my friends still liked me for who I was, even if I assumed they didn't. (My mind wasn't really in a good place, which is why Layla and Page were such saints to have stayed friends with me).

Then Junior Year came and Page told me she was going to do online school and wouldn't even be in orchestra anymore.

I cried for several days straight. She was gone for about a month.

In that month, I asked Layla if she would care if I went to the choir room to hang out--that was where they always went. Page and I either walked around school or went to the orchestra room. I really shouldn't have been surprised at how welcome everyone was. I was, after all, their friend. Even if I didn't entirely fit in. I always stuck close to Layla though, always praying she didn't find me annoying.

Note: if any of you have ever had a shadow. Always be kind. I eventually got a few of my own and once I realized what was happening I did my best to be kind. You don't exactly have to be your shadow's friend, but you do need to be their cheerleader. If you've never been a shadow yourself, I don't think you can ever understand how hard it is to finally learn you don't need to be a shadow.

Suddenly (and on a particularly hard day too), Page was in orchestra again. (Truly, and yes this is my religious beliefs coming out here but my religion is at the core of who I am: I believe God sent Page back to me. He knew I couldn't survive without her). Her online school said they would give her credit for the rest of Junior Year Orchestra. It was really the only time I ever saw her, but it was the best time of the day. I always looked forward to orchestra.

The power of a good friend is something that often goes unrealized.

When you realize it, make sure you tell that friend just how freaking awesome they are.

I also started looking forward to spending lunch in the choir room with my original friend group. I was still silent, but I've always been more of a listener anyways. And these kids were funny, simply being allowed in their presence was enough for me. And I got invited to most of their parties which was cool, and good for me. I never wanted to leave the house and Mom always had to remind me I always have fun when I go. And I did.

I hope it hasn't sounded like I've bashed on this friend group. Truly, they were very nice to me. My issues were very much internal and I would assume at times I wasn't wanted. Yeah...I unfortunately let my insecurities get in the way of what possibly could have been closer friendships.

I've kept in decent touch with Page since graduating. She's always been a rock I know I can call and verbal vomit too, even if it's been more than six months since we've talked.

This is one thing I love most about Page. As you know from earlier blog posts, I am a Latter Day Saint (LDS, aka Mormon). In high school...well life in general, the world at large assumes certain things about my religion that aren't true and frankly hurtful to an awkward teenager. Page was never like that. She wasn't my only non-member friend (and whether someone is a member of my religion has never mattered to me EVER) but she was my only non-member friend that didn't judge me for my religion. The others I know never did on purpose...but...things come back to you when you talk behind others back. And most things were said as these friends tried to fit in with others...which is also sad. Bashing on anyone in anyway should never be a way to fit in.

I'm not one to just randomly talk religion with anyone, even now, but sometimes I needed to talk about the drama with the girls at church and Page always listened. She never judged and although she didn't always know what to say, she always supported me.

One of the most nerve racking things I've ever done was give her a Book of Mormon. I didn't want her to think I was trying to convert her--because again that's an assumption made by a lot of people when copies of the Book of Mormon are given out. It was the end of Junior Year and I knew I wouldn't see her for a while. Neither of us was doing orchestra Senior year so I had no idea when I would actually see her again.

I just wanted to give her something that made me happy. Honestly, my faith in God was the core foundation that kept me from being destroyed by high school (is still the core of who I am now). I put the book in a gift bag with tissue paper because the only time I saw her was at school, and I didn't want any of our classmates making fun of her for having this book. I also didn't want to get made fun of myself.

Not that kids were awful towards the LDS at my school, but it happened often enough I didn't want Page to be embarrassed by my gift. I told her in the letter I had wrapped with the book and even in person. "Please remember I'm just giving this to you, because this is something that makes me happy."

I wanted to give my friend who had coaxed me off the edge of suicide (unbeknownst to her and again the reason why I believe God led us to be friends) something that made my life valuable and brought joy to me even in the hardest of times. I will be grateful to the end of my days for her gracious acceptance of the Book of Mormon, and even her follow up text saying something like, "Thank you for giving me something that you obviously care so much about."

Like I said, I could not care less what religion anyone belongs to, but I am so grateful that my best friend respected me enough and knew me well enough, to understand my intention was to only give her something that brought me joy. She didn't assume I was trying to make her a Mormon. She knew all I wanted was to show her how my religion gave me joy and helped me through every trial of my life, and that I wanted to share this joy with her.

So as the title says: this is an Ode to Page. A beautiful woman who has stayed with me through thick and thin and has accepted me wholly as I am: anxiety, religion, quirks and all. She's truly an amazing woman. Anyone would be honored to call her friend.

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