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This is for the big T and I don't mean Texas

A little over 13 years ago I had just turned 18. I left a boyfriend, the only home I had known, and a place where everyone knew my name and moved to a tiny little town in Idaho to attend college. There I only knew one other person, a childhood friend who was going to college with me. She and I had heard all the "horror" stories of living with friends so we made a contract with each other. In writing. We were serious and it was all but notarized. Generally, it was about what we'd each do to make it work and that we'd make other living arrangements quickly for the sake of our friendship if it ever came to that. More specifically, I think there were things like, "I promise not to get jealous and make up reasons to fight when I see you making friends more easily than me" and "I promise not to nag about the health of your future children when all I see you eat are hotdogs". Neither of us really did well at keeping those promises, but our friendship is still going strong today!

I flew in to Salt Lake City and then my cousin drove us up to Idaho. About 100 miles from our destination I had a mild panic attack. I suddenly realized that toilet paper would no longer magically appear in the bathroom and that when light bulbs died I would be responsible for replacing them. It really terrified me.

I moved in with 6 girls I didn't know. It was an incredible year for me n which I learned so much. Not so much scholastically (I worked my hind end off the rest of my college career to atone for my freshman sins and graduate with honors---it's amazing what one dumb health class can do to your GPA).

One of the girls that lived there was a girl named Traci. She was pretty, dark-haired, witty, kind of quiet, a little sassy, and very smart. I liked her immediately. But she was a sophomore in a house full of freshman, she wasn't as immediately impressed by me. She did ridiculous things like, go to bed before 3 am, attend all her classes, study for tests, and talk about things she was learning with others. Sometimes it seemed like she actually enjoyed this learning business.

She drove a teal Tercel which her eight year old brother call "Traci's Tracel". She was one of the funniest people I had ever met in my 18 years. I came from a clowny, full-of-antics, ha-ha, look-at-me, kind of funny family. She could drop a one-liner that would keep me laughing all week. Quietly. Maturely.

She went home to Colorado for Thanksgiving. I remember when she returned that I had really missed her. But I also knew the feeling wasn't mutual, so I played cool. But I was determined to make this girl my friend.

I don't remember when or how it happened, but it did. We soon became close to inseparable. We took a road trip to her home in Colorado. About 9 hours. We had this huge 1970's tape recorder and we listened to Meatloaf for probably 8.5 hours of that trip. I still remember the curves and bends of the road as the mountains went from tall ragged peaks to flatter, ragged, red, bluffs and we yelled at the top of our lungs, "DO YOU LOVE ME? WILL YOU LOVE ME FOREVER? DO YOU NEED ME, WILL YOU NEVER LEAVE ME, WILL YOU MAKE ME SO HAPPY FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE, WILL YOU TAKE ME AWAY, WILL YOU MAKE ME YOUR WIFE...." We were so proud when we could sing along word for word as fast as Mr. Loaf himself. We laughed hysterically at the lyrics of Wasted Youth and for years to come Traci would interject randomly, "So. I. Took my guitar. And I smashed it against the body of a varsity cheerleader" and we'd laugh like it was the first time we'd ever heard it. We discovered a softer side of Meatloaf with "For Crying Out Loud" and indulged ourselves in the youthful drama of feeling like you know what they're talking about, but really not having a clue. Interestingly, that song still moves me. But so does "Anything for Love" so don't mind me...

I had never been to Southern Colorado and the scenery was breathtaking. Traci was always proud to be from Colorado, proud of where she came from. I never thought to take pride in my heritage, but she did. She adored her grandfather. I didn't know either of mine, so I was always intrigued by her relationship with her grandfather. When I met him, it was immediately apparent that the feeling was mutual. He ADORED Traci. I had never seen such visible adoration. He thought she was brilliant, funny, kind, strong...perfect and he didn't waste a day not letting her know it. I think that was my first realization in what someone's love can make you do. Traci never wanted to disappoint him. I'm certain she never has.

When my freshman year ended we had to part ways. Traci was graduating and I had decided not to return for my sophomore year. I was heartbroken to say goodbye. I didn't have much experience in long-distance friendships. I was sure that once we left Idaho, that would be it. I cried all day. I was SO embarrassed, but I couldn't help it.

We had no problem staying in touch. Traci came to visit me 6 months later in October. During that visit she went on a 3 hour trip in the cab of a truck between my mother and father. And lived to tell. When my siblings learned of this, she immediately became famous. Siblings who lived far away and hadn't met her would say, "Wait, is she the one who went to Wichita in a truck with mom and dad..." and then whatever details of the story I had to relate were much more interesting. We tend to revere others who manage feats we never could.

Traci moved to DC to nanny and I moved to California to nanny and then attend college. I visited her there once. During that visit she played me songs from Les Miz and told me in animated detail the storyline. Jean Valjean's number 24601 and how his story moved her. I "discovered" Les Miz about a year later, and listened to it nonstop for nearly 2 years.

She went on a mission to the Ukraine and had to learn Russian. She called it penance for teasing our roommate for learning Russian "a real useful language to learn". She fell in love with the Ukraine, and I suspect her heart didn't return from there complete.

11 months later I went on a mission.

After Traci had been gone for about 7 or 8 months, her grandpa died suddenly. I still remember the day I got a letter from her, telling me about it. I sat in my little apartment in California and wept for her, thousands of miles away. I read her letter to me a dozen times and cried for the loss of such a great man. I read how she went out on her balcony and sang his favorite hymn, "How Great Thou Art" and cried that she had to do that alone in a foreign country.

When T returned from Ukraine, she went to college in Logan to finish her bachelors degrees. Magically, that's where I ended up too! I lived with Traci for a couple of weeks while I found a place to live permanently. Her roommate before me had been named Angela as well and she had been a nightmare. Her boyfriend David started referring to me as "Good Angela" so that conversations wouldn't get confusing. Not the loveliest of nicknames, but I was glad not to be "Bad Angela".

Traci excelled in her classes. She worked hard and she was passionate about her major. AND she always had a clean room.

After she graduated, she moved to Salt Lake and eventually got a studio apartment. I was amazed at how brave she was to live alone. I couldn't fathom it. 1 year later after I graduated, I moved to St. Louis and got a studio apartment. One weekend when I was visiting Traci, we were walking out of church to the car when a guy came up out of nowhere and asked her out on a date. I got a pit in my stomach for her. She smiled at him and said, "Thank you so much for asking, I'm really not interested." I almost fell over. Seriously. I had never seen anyone do that before. It was kind and there was no room for doubt. I have serious issues with leaving doubt in people's mind. Well, I did. Now I'm married and I believe I don't leave any doubt in my husband's mind. About anything. Once in high school, I left enough doubt for a crazy stalker to leave a dozen roses in a box, under my car, at 6 am, and then call and tell me to "go look at the surprise he left me under my car." Um, yeah, that's not terrifying! When I finally did make myself clear he yelled at me, enraged, "I quit swearing and smoking for you because my mom said girls like you don't like that stuff!" Thanks mom, you failed to fill him in on the "get to know a girl in other ways besides following her in your car" rule.

Traci married an incredible guy. A year later, I followed suit.

Somewhere down the road, Traci and I realized that I did everything about 6-12 months after her---on average about 9 months. She's 9 months older than me, education, missions, marriage, and children--the big things. But even little things like, discovering Les Miz, or loving Pho.

At her wedding I gave the "Top Ten Reasons Why David Is Lucky To Marry Traci", including details like, "David will never have to look for a pair of socks because they will always be perfectly matched, rolled, and arranged by color in the top drawer of their dresser" referring to Traci's impeccable organization skills. She spoke at my reception and gave us a little yellow window decal "Newlyweds on Board" to pass on the cheesieness she suffered from having it in her window the past year. I loved it.

She was 4 months pregnant at my wedding. Not only did she indulge me in stuffing her swelling belly into one of my bridesmaids outfit, she planned my ENTIRE reception all through the throes of morning sickness. I had the most amazing reception, more than I ever could have dreamed of. She did decorations, food, seating, guest "book", EVERYTHING. I'd say, "dots and daisies" and VOILA I had an amazing wedding cake. Three of my friends have practically replicated my reception after attending, it was that good. She told me when to stand in my line, when to cut the cake, and went to get my bride-butt in the car and leave. That was one of the greatest gifts I could ever be given. There was no stress, and because she kicked me out of my own reception on time, we weren't completely exhausted at the end of the night.

She had a beatiful little brown-eyed 6 week old boy when I went to visit her, 5 months pregnant. She had an adorable little blue-eyed blonde a year and a half later, and when I found out I was pregnant later that month, I was POSITIVE it was a boy. Avee broke the trend of me doing EVERYTHING like Traci. But, Avee breaks a lot of molds.

A couple of weeks ago Traci posted a WFMW about cheese slicers and I whined about not even owning one in her comments. A week later I got a cheese slicer, apple slicer, and a couple of other goodies delievered to my door by Mr. UPS.

The other day we spoke on the phone, her husband having been gone for 3 months, mine only coming home on weekends. We were almost a comedy routine. "So, I was thinking about trying....get OFF of there....where was I?" "You were saying....If you hit her ONE MORE TIME....oh, I forget."
Somehow, the conversation was still therapeutic.

T, I love September 10th almost as much as I love that little C&H house where we became friends. Thank you for being the best kind of friend. For teaching me, for making me laugh, for understanding me, for forgiving me, for supporting me, and for being the kind of person I feel honored to know.

"For giving me the answers when I'm asking you why-- my oh my for that I thank you....For pullin' me away when I'm startin' to fall for revvin' me up when I'm startin' to stall....For taking and for giving and for playing the game for praying for my future in the days that remain...Ah but most of all for cryin' out loud, for that I love you"

It's just not the same without teenage angst, is it?

But most of all, for introducing me to Veronica Mars. My life was incomplete before then.

Happy Birthday.

That is really amazing. I'm jealous of your being able to remember things in such great detail.

Happy Birthday T... I can't think of a better present than the one you got yesterday. ;)

P.S. Meatloaf?

:: one eyebrow ::

As soon as I stop crying, can I add this to the "posts to know me by" list on my own blog? :)

Thank you - you're the best C&H Sugar Babe EVER.

And that envelope made me laugh. Hard. Damn, I'm funny. It's doubly funny because we seriously kept in touch via snail mail - our parents were kooks about phone bills and there was no e-mail phenom yet. Can you imagine?

And that we've known each other almost half our lives now. Whoa.

Sometimes I think you know my wife even better than I do. However, I do have to correct you on one small point.

"David will never have to look for a pair of socks because they will always be perfectly matched, rolled, and arranged by color in the top drawer of their dresser"

Um...I don't think so. It may be my fault though. I am at least half responsible for our eager, overly curious, exceptionally busy little boys. Doesn't leave much time for sock arranging.

You are so cool! both of you :D
I knew you guys were friends, but knowing the story is soooo much better.
The pictures and the envelope are great.
I'm also jealous, 'cause I left my friend in Mexico (the one I went to see) and reading your stories make me wish I lived a bit closer ot her, waaah.

Happy Bday CYM!

Husband also wants to know how you can just dig up a picture of my tercel...

And I keep reading this cuz it's just so nice.

Tell Cheryl not to worry - I'm so good that I won't get a big head. :)

Millie---I have the memory of an elephant. Along with some other things...And about Meatloaf, anyone who knows me or Traci well, would be surprised by that, it's just not like either of us---but, well, I have no explanation.

CYM---of course you can post it. Would you like me to remove the part about my under-the-car stalker since that really has nothing to do with you? :) I thought about the snail mail thing a lot as I wrote this. Amazed that we had that kind of---energy at one point in our lives. Now a seven digit number plus area code is sometimes just too much work.
The hardest thing about this post for me was, there were probably 25 things I wanted to write, but just couldn't squeeze in and still be repected in the morning. Like knocking on the wall, scarlet pimpernel, your poetry, Martina, your siblings, vanilla wafers...oh, I can't start...
Oh yeah, and the photo of the Tercel---I have pictures of ALL the cars ALL of my friends have ever owned. It's just a little something I like to do--for myself.

Husband (home edition)---I'm so thrilled to see the changes in the paranthesis---glad you are home safely! Uh, if your sock drawer DID look today like I envisioned over 5 years ago, I'd be asking for whatever pills it is she's taking!

NCS---I wish Traci was in Mexico---I think that's actually closer to me!

That was a wonderful post. What a good tribute to a wonderful friend on her birthday.

ew, you don't have a picture of my car do you?

Danga nothing like a good healthy cry today about someone so beautiful. CYM I don't know ya like DWR but DITTO- Happy 29th Birthday #?!!!!! And that trip through KS must have been 6hrs so hail to the queen:)

This is a beautiful tribute, but what I'm smiling about is finally finding someone else from church who likes Meatloaf. I thought it was one of those apostate habits I just couldn't give up after my baptism and was, therefore, better left a secret. Shh!

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