From top left circled in bulldog green, Nick, Jesse, Lori, Jed, me. Emily must be next to me, but cut off (sorry, Em) others, not circled are totally awesome people who went to Provo High with us.
I could always count on a group of guy friends because of Jesse. Jesse, my cousin, but more like my twin brother, grew up across the street from me. He was adored by all, but mostly by me. So until I met Jed, my "boyfriend" each year was Jesse's best friend. He always set me up with the best--which is how I met Nick. It was the beginning of my 7th grade year, and there was a dance on the tennis courts. Jesse knew Nick from sports, and he told me I should like him. I danced with him a couple of times, while Jesse gave me the thumbs up from behind, and soon we were 'going out'. Which, really meant, we were writing notes to each other sometimes, and dancing together sometimes at the dances. I knew I was special to be Nick's girlfriend. Like I said, Jesse only set me up with the best.
Lori and Emily were my best friends. We'd take turns sleeping at each others' houses and their families became second families to me. I used their phone numbers so frequently, I still have them committed to memory. Emily's dad was sure she should marry Jesse, which may be why he didn't mind having me around so much.
As the years went on, Jesse's friends were my friends, and mine were his. They would shoot spit wads at us from the back of the class and tease us as we walked down the hall, but somehow, we managed to stay good friends.
Emily and I both got to claim Nick as a boyfriend for different times of our junior high days, but in the end, he lucked out and married Lori. They are a perfect pair and have made three beautiful children who are a fantastic mix of them both.
This past Saturday, Emily and I went to a funeral to commemorate the life of Nick's youngest brother CJ. The service was beautiful, and Nick's address brought me to tears several times. As I looked around the chapel at the many people there to celebrate this good man's life, I recognized the backs of several heads. Sprinkled throughout the crowd were those boys who used to shoot the spit wads and try and put us in garbage cans. This time, without their straws, and with handsome suits. As I watched them, there to support their dear friend, I was so moved. I thought about life, and all the aspects of it. Of how growing up, with all its hardships, helps us to be strong with each other and for each other. Looking at those boys, now men and fathers, now somber and serious, was a beautiful sight. With Emily next to me, looking up at Lori and her new (less than a week old) baby, I was overcome with gratitude for friends, and the journey of becoming friends.