I keep a picture of my friend Becky and me on my desk so I can look at it while I'm working. It was taken the spring of 1983 when I visited her in Washington, D.C., where she and her husband were living.
It's a great photo because it recalls that moment in time so perfectly. Both of us are rocking huge haystacks of hair like we're front men for a glam metal band. We're wearing enormous bug-eyed sunglasses, polo shirts with popped collars and high-waisted jeans, the way women did in the spring of 1983. We have our arms wrapped around a lawn jockey, and we are mugging like mad for the camera.
Seriously, Becky and I had so much fun that week. We ate steamed crabs at a crab house in Annapolis, Md., sitting at picnic tables covered with butcher paper where we cracked shells with wooden mallets and dipped meat into melted butter. We visited the Smithsonian and looked at insects encased in glass like sinister jewels. We went to a mall where we tried on ugly prom dresses and collapsed with laughter in the dressing room. We drove through neighborhoods, belting out "She Blinded Me With Science" along with Thomas Dolby on the radio. We sat on her living room couch, eating sour cream raisin pie and talking, talking, talking until the stars came out.
Daniel Handler (aka "Lemony Snicket") famously said "you never love a book the way you love a book when you're 10." And the same may well be true for friends, too. Becky and I first met when we were 10 years old, and it was love at first sight. I couldn't believe my good luck. Here she was in my very own neighborhood! A ready-made sister for a sister-less girl! Miracle!
In fact, Becky was better than a sister because we were the exact same age, and we (mostly) liked the same things riding bikes and reading books and talking about all the things you talk about when you're 10 years old.
There were differences between us, of course. I liked animals. Animals made Becky break out in hives. Becky liked people. People made me break out in hives. But we forged a friendship that endured until her sudden death at the age of 47. The day before she died we had lunch together at the old David Chase CafÃ© on Ninth South where we told each other funny stories and asked our server questions about his tattoos.
After Becky's death I put away the picture. I couldn't bear to look at it, so raw was my grief. How would any of us her family, her many friends, her co-workers get along without her?
Eventually, though, I brought the photo out of retirement. I put it on my desk again where it served for a long time as a melancholy reminder that I should embrace what I have while I still have it. The only certainty in this life, I thought, is loss.
I caught myself looking at the picture this morning, however, and noticed a marked difference in my reaction. Seeing the two of us there with our silly smiles and our silly sunglasses made me feel lighthearted.
You know. Like I was 10 again.
And all I could think was this: I am just so lucky to have known her.
Ann Cannon can be reached at email@example.com or facebook.com/anncannontrib.