I remember with great clarity the day I met Lisa Matt. My family lived in a house surrounded by my Grandfather’s land and had no neighbors to speak of, except the house across the street. How long Lisa’s family had been there, I’m not sure – I was five, and details concerning that house pre-Lisa are completely absent.
My Dad and I were just coming back from a walk one cloudy evening (or a bike ride… ok, maybe my clarity isn’t so great, but the POINT is, we were coming North on the road, and not driving) and saw that The Neighbor was outside. The Neighbor (Bob) had his step-daughter outside, who was playing with a skateboard. Dad asked if I wanted to go meet them. Being an only child, and shy, I did require minor nudging, but we went up and introduced ourselves. Lisa had very blonde hair and, more importantly, a sloped driveway, which yielded great success with the skateboard.
We started out toward the bottom and gradually worked our way higher and higher up the slope. It should be noted – the slope is not huge, but when you’re five, things are hugely relative. In fact, I have a (terrible) photo I took a couple of years ago at about 25mph:
We went up and down that driveway easily a hundred times that night, and thus, a friendship was born. Every day from that point forward, one of us would call the other and say the same thing: “Can you play?” I still remember that phone number – it’s etched in my DNA.
This is one of my favorite photos – it’s a perfect moment reflective of so many others. Dad took this in Great-Grandpa’s woods, maybe in 1978 or 79. I love Lisa’s stripey tube sock!
I don’t think many days went by when we didn’t see each other. We were in the same grade at school, and every day afterward, there was Really Important Stuff to be done. Stuffed animals to act out dramas with, vast forts in the woods to be made, creeks to become lost in, trees to be climbed, Playboy magazines to be uncovered, huge sweeping stories to be acted out, snow to be played in, “Grease” to be sung… oh my, but we had some times.
That tree now towers over the house, as shown here:
That tree, I’m very sad to say, got chopped down long ago, like most of the big trees in my late great-grandfather’s woods.
We lived about 200 miles from the nearest beach – I remember the sand, but haven’t any idea where it came from.
We got into our fair share of trouble, certainly, and hatched elaborate plans to run away with maps and lists. There were slumber parties and birthday parties. This is Lisa’s 8th birthday party at my house – bask in the 1978ness of it all:
We were both pretty awful at ballet:
I was far too bossy, because I had my mother for a role model. But man, we had some fun.
Our families took quasi-annual vacations to Cedar Point together, usually in two separate cars. Bob had CB’s, and the first year they used them, I remember distinctly my dad’s handle was “Toejam.” Mom was so unamused with that. It cracked the rest of us up. I can’t remember what Bob’s handle was… it’s lurking on the periphery but won’t quite come into focus. We spent many hours at Cedar Point growing up… the sights, sounds and smells are all so clear. Little micro-vignettes pop into my head as I’m writing this… parts of The Mine Ride, the food vendors, the times we played the arcade games, the old-fashioned “saloons,” the big, giant, outdoor IMAX theater with its barnstorming movies, the Corkscrew, the boat rides, the smell of the trains, Frontier Town. Lisa and I rode The Gemini a bazillion times every trip. I remember being young enough to worry about the “you must be this tall to ride the _________;” the heartbreaking disappointment one year, followed by jubilation the next.
I’d give a lot to go back in time to one of those summer visits.
How lucky were we to have our best friend right across the street? I’m getting a little choked up, here, pardon me a moment…
High school came, and with the sudden influx of new people and the enormity of the school itself (1200 students, oh my!) we started drifting, like you sometimes do. We acquired new best friends, had various fallings out, but remained on each other’s Radar. Lisa got a car way before I did – I think it was senior year, and she got this ginormous boat of a car – a mid-70’s Delta 88, if I recall correctly. I didn’t get a car til I was a junior in college – weak!
In college, there were visits and letters, but I’ve never been any good at keeping up with that sort of thing – more drifting. Email had been invented, but it wasn’t often used. She got married, had kids, I drifted around doing whatever it was I was doing. Years passed, a few emails were exchanged. She moved to Hawaii and became HOLY SHIT RIPPED. Seriously, click that link – Flickr won’t let me link the image here. She took up motorcycling, too.
Fast-forward to last year. Through the wonders of modern technology, we connected on Facebook, and suddenly, once again, Lisa was a part of my daily world again! And it rules. Lisa is into quilting, too, and has been at it a good while longer than I have. She’s made some great stuff, and is particularly interested in Civil War-era blocks and fabrics. We got a blog set up for her on my server, and even set one up for her husband, who is a medic just deployed again to Afghanistan.
We’re still the same kids, naturally, just with Real World stuff woven into our lives. Hard miles, some of it. It would be so great if we can visit each other at some point (although the last time she saw me, I weighed about 90 pounds less, good lord.) I think it would be pretty amazing to look into those eyes I knew so well, but haven’t seen for twenty years – I bet the same sparkle is still there, and I bet her laugh is probably the same, too. But there would be time and age and differences that would be pretty spectacular to see.
We agreed to do a handmade swap. I have the fabric sitting right next to me here, so I can think about what would be worthwhile to make from it. One doesn’t simply make a strippy quilt out of Civil War repros – it needs form and shape. And probably points, which scares the hell out of me, and partially explains why it’s sitting here and isn’t a Work In Progress yet.
Lisa, on the other hand, took the bull by the horns and got her stuff in the mail to me not long after we set up the swap. They arrived today.
When I opened the mailbox to find a package, I thought, “Oh crap… did I go shopping in my sleep again?” It’s been known to happen! When I got it inside, I saw this:
I looked at the return address, and my heart welled and then immediately sank – it was from Lisa, yay! It was damaged, OH NO. Of all the packages they could have torn… not this one! A massive gash in the envelopes exterior! Sons of bitches, you cannot blithely stick an “oops, this is damaged” sticker on it! I need a full explanation in triplicate. I need… oh – it’s ok. Fortunately, nothing was harmed – there was just shredded package lining all over – yay!
Mike Neir will testify to this: Every time we go to the grocery store, I say, “Dammit, I keep forgetting to make produce bags,” because I hate using the plastic ones that just end up in the recycling pile. I won’t have to say that anymore – Lookie what Lisa made me! These are exactly what I had in mind to make, just exactly:
She sent a collection of different-sized bags and another bag to hold them in. Lisa can sew in straight lines. I am so jealous.
There’s even more awesomeness, though, and I am going to start reading this immediately after hitting PUBLISH:
Lisa, thank you so much – these are all just perfect. I miss you, girlie. Someday, there will have to be Vacations and Visiting.