Friday, February 24, 2012

Bittersweet Memories

I spent an afternoon of quality time with Warren yesterday. It was all good, but something we talked about made me think about my high school friend Heidi Hardgrove. This was a bittersweet thing. Heidi died during the summer after my Freshman year of college, and it nearly broke my heart at the time. I would not describe Heidi as my very closest friend in high school, but I would certainly rank her in the top three or four. I have missed her mightily through the years.

I always remember my mother saying, while we were in high school, “I like Heidi. I really do. She's a sweet girl. It's just that I know if you break a rule or get into trouble, you are going to be with Heidi when you do it.” Which, in retrospect, makes it pretty clear why she was such a wonderful friend. She was a girl who knew how to live life with gusto.

And here's the thing: the stuff I would get into trouble for with Heidi wasn't really bad stuff. Shoot, my other closest friends were paragons of adult approval, great kids, really, but I probably tried more of the dangerous stuff of adolescence with them. No, Heidi and I were just more likely to roam beyond the boundaries of neighborhood and curfew.

I was a straight A student in high school, and most of the kids I really ran around with were kids I knew from all the advanced classes. Everyone was pretty much an A average, college prep type. With three exceptions: I had another close friend who played in a band, and while he was a straight A student, some of the musicians I knew through him weren't so much straight arrows; I was active in theater, and it seemed to draw a real cross-section of kids; and Heidi was bright enough, but definitely not on a college-prep track. That was before Title IX, so there weren't girls varsity sports, but she was athletic and played lots of intramural sports. She was taking typing and shorthand and skill-oriented classes like that, and for the school year she lived after high school, she was working an office job, not away at college. Which had the effect of allowing us to grow apart during that school year. I was away at school, so we didn't have much contact that year.

I marvel that we were as good a friends as we were, really. We didn't have a huge amount in common, but we always clicked. As I said, Heidi was athletic, and I am the biggest klutz on the planet. But Heidi always valiantly and loyally claimed that I wasn't uncoordinated. That's the mark of a friend. We also tended to serve as each others “wing men” to use the phrase my sons use. If one of us needed a cover story to get out of the house, the other would provide it. If one of us needed someone to go someplace to meet a boy or check one out or venture into uncertain terrain, we called the other. It was that kind of a friendship.

Heidi died 34 years ago this summer. I have been reconnecting with some old high school friends through Facebook, and that has been really nice. But it just makes her absence from the planet that much more real to me. You wouldn't think it could still evoke such heartache. But it really does. For all the wonderful people who have been in my life through the years, and all the wonderful friends from that time who I let slip away, the pain of the loss of Heidi so abruptly, so permanently, has always stayed with me.


Shannon said...

It's good you have great memories of her. That is a shame she passed so young!

Coogan said...

Wow, Sue Emerson. I've been trying to remember Heidi's last name for the longest time, and now that I have it, I find your blog. I didn't really know Heidi, but it was sad.

You may remember me, John Horst.