I met Susan in English class in 1968. I sat at the desk behind her, often staring at her thick, auburn hair wishing my thin, mousy brown hair was as radiant as hers. I marveled at how confident she was, offering her opinion without prompting. I, however, only spoke when called upon to do so. Susan was popular and gregarious; I was invisible, painfully shy, and socially awkward. She smiled with ease; I was reserved. I yearned to be more like her and dreamt of being part of her circle of friends. But we were not likely to be friends. Or so I thought.
“You don’t talk much,” she said turning around at her desk, “but I kind of like you. Want to come to my house after school?”
“Okay. Sure,” I said, containing my excitement.
“I live in the white house just across the street from the high school; it’s the only white house on the block with a swing in the front yard. See you after school,” she said, rushing to her next class.
I knew exactly which house was Susan’s. I’d passed it countless times on my way home from school, frequently pausing at the front yard, enamored with the bench swing gently swaying underneath an oak tree.
After school, I rushed to Susan’s house thrilled with the possibility of a new friendship, and found her sitting on the swing. “You came!” she said with delight in her voice. “Join me here. This swing is my favorite place to hang out.”
We sat together and talked for hours, discovering that we shared a love for literature, watching musicals, eating chocolate ice cream, and shopping for faddish clothes. Our friendship quickly blossomed and we shared many memorable moments including “borrowing” her mother’s car, driving into town, and exploring Dallas’ high-end department store.
The clerks knew Susan by name. So whenever we arrived, they scurried about bringing us iced tea, petit fours, and clothes for Susan to try on. Afterward, we oohed and ahhed over expensive jewelry and fashionable shoes. I loved shopping with Susan and seeing elegant things.
On one such shopping excursion, Susan said, “Today’s your birthday. I’ll buy you anything you want.”
“Oh, Susan, I can’t let you do that.”
“I’m not comfortable spending your money.”
“You’re my best friend! I want you to have something special.”
Just hearing Susan call me her best friend was an unexpected surprise and a great birthday present.
“Okay,” I said, not wanting to disappoint her. I searched the store and found something that was luxurious yet affordable—an elegant, full-length, lacey red slip.
For the remainder of high school, Susan and were best friends. I flourished in the elegance that was our friendship. After graduation, we went our separate ways attending different colleges, becoming new people, and losing touch. We haven’t spoken in a lifetime, but I still have that red slip. Seeing it reminds me of her and the gift of elegance she gave me.