We met at the YMCA. We were three, maybe four. Little girls take dance classes at that age because they are adorable in little pink leotards and ballet slippers and shiny patent tap shoes and then, like now, moms will do just about anything to get out of the house with their children.
Our class was small and we spent one hour a week every school year in that second floor room together with Miss Rita and her cropped hair and stern instructions to point, stretch, turn those knees out.
My knees didn’t turn out. But Erin’s did. She was a natural athlete and always a better dancer than me. I had knobby knees and turned-in toes and never really knew how to move my body gracefully.
Our moms became friends as we danced. I don’t remember when they were asked to stop watching our lessons. They still maintain that it was because they giggled too much, but the important thing was that they spent that hour each week getting to know each other.
We didn’t live in the same town, so we didn’t go to the same school, but as Erin and I grew up we had sleepovers at each other’s houses. Spending so much time in each other’s homes – sleeping in the same bed and giggling into the night, eating dinner with each other’s families, meeting extended family members, wearing each other’s clothes – gave our friendship an intimacy that just doesn’t happen with school chums. I shaved my legs for the first time sitting on the edge of Erin’s bathtub. I watched my first horror movie in her living room. I made salad for the first time in her mother’s kitchen. I wrote most of my diary entries behind the closed door of her bedroom, listening to Wham! and making prank phone calls and swooning over the poster of Rob Lowe that she had hanging on her wall. We shared books, crushes, fears, and secrets. We were building a history.
As the years advanced so did our friendship, and so did our dance lessons. I struggled to keep up. Miss Rita was always frustrated with my inability to properly turn out my knees. I had adequate flexibility but none of the agility of movement ballet required. Erin excelled. She was into sports as well, tennis and basketball and softball. One year she was moved up a level in dance, and we were no longer in the same class. I switched dance schools.
Our friendship was firmly rooted by then, and we danced when we saw each other, sometimes sharing what we learned in our classes, most of the time remembering the moves to Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance we learned as kids, or making up our own.
We’d spend summers either swimming at my house in the country or walking the neighborhoods around her house in town. Once we met by surprise on vacation and spent the week together. We each had other groups of friends, and we were accepted into each others’ circles and got to know them as tweens, then teens. Dance lessons were long behind us – I don’t remember exactly when we both stopped taking them. In high school we had our last sleepover.
We grew up and away as people do, going to college and finding careers and making new friends. Erin and I see each other sporadically now, living away from each other but keeping up through our moms who built their friendship alongside ours. When we see each other, bringing our own families with us, we laugh and talk and hug and it feels like no time has passed since we were girls.
This post inspired by:
Prompt #2: A childhood friend.