Archive for March, 2013

Rachel remet

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In 8th grade I transferred to a new school mid semester and began my quest for fresh friends.  I stumbled through a couple of failed attempts before finding Sue, a skinny long haired waif with a big smile full of braces. She was a good girl from a family of social workers who was funny, friendly, trustworthy and instantly my best friend.  Shortly after this, in walked Rachel. I will never forget the image of this girl wearing a flowered mini dress, platform shoes with a great main of Robert Plant hair standing there with her hall pass waiting to be admitted to her new world. I picture her standing alone at the other end of the gymnasium, looking small in that big room and very wholesome.  Although this may have been true at heart, she was also our parents worst nightmare in disguise. Just fresh out of a  New York grade school, she was totally music and substance savvy. Whoa Nelly, watch out Willowbrook school. If you were worried about Felice, get ready for this one. Rachel quietly corrupted without premeditation. She was not the least bit pusher but just an easy-going girl who couldn’t believe what an uncool place her parents had dumped her. We were hypnotized by her worldliness and I wanted to experience all that she knew. And so our duo became trio. Sue resisted the dark forces and was the sober friend that watched over us. If we were older she would have been the designated driver but at the end of the day she surrendered to MY bad influence.

Rachel introduced us to the 1970’s version of alternative music and one of our favorite pass times was shopping for records. She gave us David Bowie. She pronounced the first syllable of his name like Wow with a “B” and we so believed in her that we figured the rest of the world was saying it wrong! With him came glam, glitter and words that had never crossed my path: androgynous, bi-sexual, cross dressing, most of which I didn’t totally understand but it was radical and therefor absolutely cool. By high school, I was sneaking out of the house dressed in black 1940’s dresses with big feathery hats.  Somehow, back in the day a weekly allowance managed to get us into major concerts in addition to buying records. Music was our lives and Rachel was the one to refine our taste.

Rachel’s house was our hang out. She had 5 brothers, each one cuter than the next. Mark was the oldest and it was because of him that we got in with an older clan of kids in high school. Every weekend was a party, most often at the Dyal’s house. They had free rein of their basement, unfettered by parents. Our world was expanding outside our boring sub-division to the other side of town. At first we hitch hiked so our parents would be clueless of our whereabouts. There were also the bicycle adventures: The legendary ride from Glenview to the city, about 40 miles roundtrip. (Please refer to my post “Escape from Glenview”. Rachel was the one riding the Schwinn Stingray!) By the time I had my drivers license, mid sophimore year, Rachel had moved to another suburb and changed high schools. Once I got a car  I was driving to hang out at her new house, but then a couple years later she moved out of state. 

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The last time I remember seeing Rachel was in 1980, during a long lay over in the Miami airport, on the way to Peru. She was married and had just given birth to her first son. It was a difficult delivery and she wasn’t ready to leave the house but managed to stumble to the airport with her newborn to see me!  She doesn’t remember it. Ten years later she came to a party at my house in Chicago for a brief visit and I don’t remember it. There was a phone call somewhere within the last 20 years but then we lost each other……until sometime in January,  Sue got the itch and starting hunting for Rachel by internet. She found her, ironically,  living a short distance from my fathers apartment in  Miami and I already had plane tickets to visit him.

And so we met, both of us all grown up with more stories to tell than humanly possible, especially since reminiscing over the past was mandatory. We had a long lunch, and a long walk. Rachel has the same voice and same personality. The difference is I only knew her during rebellious adolescence which was really short lived. Time is so elastic when we’re young. Those few years seemed like so much longer than they actually were. I missed out on Rachel as Mom, brilliant student earning an MBA, tennis pro and CFO. Holy shit. I wish I had been around to be proud  but it’s not too late to be impressed! 

We met again and took a long bike ride, sort of in tribute to the epic ride of our youth. Then we got together one last time to wander a flea market in South Beach. I realized in retrospect that it wasn’t till after the third encounter that I felt like I had gotten to know my friend again. I processed who I thought she was in the past, mixed in with the history I had missed equaling the person of the now. And this is what I realized. I feel that I didn’t ever know her that well because I wasn’t paying close enough attention. Rachel was understated. Not a flashy girl despite her glam rock taste. She was smarter than all of us put together but never needed to prove it. She didn’t ever want to be the center of attention. I, on the other hand, was bold and wanted to be noticed leaving a trail of glitter behind me.  I was too sucked into my own drama to notice. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t a good friend to her, like she was to me.  All these years, I’ve felt the shame of this thought lurking.  But now, there is the new me with less sparkle and more heart. Despite my neglect, Rachel always held a place of importance in my history. Memories of her are part of the many  film clips of my life.  I’m so grateful I got a chance to rediscover my friend and hopefully, maybe, redeem myself.

And the future? Gazing into the crystal ball I see….a slumber party in Chicago! Three friends older yet regressing easily into retro silliness! That’s right, completely immature and proud of it!  We’re playing Ziggy Stardust loud, eating pizza and drinking beer with piles of old pictures strewn about. We will tell scandalous stories and occasionally pretend to keep it down so the parents won’t hear. Talking till the wee hours with cheeks and bellies aching from too much laughter, it is the same as it ever was.

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