Rosie Simmons was my first best friend, though it wouldn't surprise me if I wasn't hers. I don't remember meeting her, which is pretty great because it means I don't remember a life without Rosie.
Rosie was the first person to commission me as piano accompanist (4th grade talent show). She was the one who begged my mom to let me pierce my ears. The guest invited to watch My Girl in the theater and sleep over for my 11th birthday. The first person I told when I found out Mrs. Casdorph would be moving up to 6th grade with us. Rosie invited me to try out for my first community theater production, introduced me to Ace of Bass, gave me her hand-me-down designer label jeans, and remains the only person with whom I ever owned a split-heart best friends necklace.
Rosie and I were something else. First, she was a full foot taller than me. Each time I watch the tiniest girl in my 5th grade class at NPA walking alongside one of the tallest, I think of me and Rosie. While we were vastly different in height, it was our quirky personalities that seemed to match so well.
Many of my recesses were spent in a far corner of the field with Rosie, making what I think we called "potpourri pockets." Or maybe "pouches." I can't quite recall. This consisted of two large leaves from the corner tree, gentle stitched together with fresh pine needles. We would then stuff these pouches/pockets full of natural bits of whatever. Grass. Other leaves. Stuff that, according to us, smelled good. There was probably a hundred kids on the playground. And two best friends, sitting under a tree, sewing with pine needles.
It wasn't always so nice, though. Fourth grade brought the Epic Jinx Battle of 1991. I remember it like it was yesterday.
Challenger had this awesome play structure made entirely of metal. It was monkey bars, but so much more. The sides were like large ladders, and opposite the monkey bars were the gymnastics bars. Parallel bars, two high bars, and a lower bar. If we weren't busy sewing, Rosie and I could frequently be found playing my favorite of elementary sports: bar tag. Sometimes, I think I still have the callouses I worked up through hours of flipping and swinging.
One particular recess, Rosie and I were playing bar tag with some friends when we said the exact same thing at the same time. "Jinx!" we both shouted. And then came the battle.
"I said it first..."
"No, I said it first..."
While the details are hazy, I do remember this argument lasting days, and at one point I took off my BFF necklace and gave it back to her. I remember the argument continuing on into the classroom, and our teacher, Mr. Gagnier, sending us back outside to hash it out. I remember tears. And finally, reconciliation. It was literally the biggest fight I have ever had with a friend. This I think of each time a student at school says, "Jinx."
Although by 6th grade we'd each acquired a new official BFF (Shayla Billings for me and Courtney Jenne for her), we've been a part of each other's lives ever since. Rosie and I made Madrigals at Alta High School together, a dream we'd shared since the group had performed assemblies at our elementary. We sang together in what we called our trio (the two of us plus Katie Baird), most notably singing "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" at the talent assembly. Rosie attended not only my wedding reception but the receptions of both of my sisters and made sure to buy a seat in the audience each time I have played a major role. She returned to the stage a few years ago, and we got to perform Joseph together - for the second time in our lives.
If I thought hard enough, I would likely discover that Rosie has been a part of 75% of my life. So when I got to go to her recent baby shower, I wasn't surprised to see people I knew from elementary, from theater, and from high school. As Rosie put it, "I don't really have family, so I keep up with my friendships."
As she patiently awaits the birth of her baby boy, she is preparing to have a huge impact on a new little life. But what she may not realize is what an impact she has already had on mine.