Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Smuddy from another.... wait, what's a Smuddy?

No one is safe from my mad blogging skills. Not even my best friend Julie, although I do not talk about her much. She is my best kept secret, the ying to my yang and a true treasure. Maybe that's why I also call her Jules. Julie and I met in 1994, our freshman year of college at good ole' Garden City Community College, taking one of those stupid required Frosh classes that no one can escape.

It was an accidental friendship, one that just occurred. Julie's gorgeous, big blue eyes, long brown hair and skinny frame matched my small, green eyes, blondish hair and skinny frame. She had grown up in Garden City her whole life as the middle child of three siblings (a younger brother and an older sister). Julie is the smart, sensible one- resembling her mom in all aspects of beauty, grace and intelligence and possessing both parents' business sense. And if you know me at all, well then, no further explanation is needed.

Julie loved performing on stage with her flair for the dramatic while maintaining a steady ground. This while I did not perform on stage, but rather as a cheerleader with my drama queen tendencies. Julie was (and is) a natural leader, holding an assistant manager position at the local theater while I grudgingly worked as a waitress.

Julie's upper- middle class family was a sharp contrast to my..... not so middle class upbringing. The good Catholic girl who held firm to her morals and beliefs while my loose, Christian (by choice) life was already tainted. Julie dated, but was never promiscuous. I had one boyfriend, always loyal, no matter how horrible the relationship.

I don't remember how it started, but I remember Jeremy, the guy she pined for since high school (and what a jerk he was). Julie had a party one weekend while her parents were away. The night ended not that great and I was quick to clean up so that when she awoke, there was no added stress. Let's just say lots of alcohol, some puking, a broken key in the doorknob and her parents' bedroom incurring some small damages. What does this have to do with Jeremy? Julie wanted him to come over and there was some issue with another girl and Julie got into a spat on the phone with the girl.

Me taking care of her sealed the deal for our friendship. We were inseparable. We made trips to McDonald's, wearing the plastic bibs and ordering food in high- pitched, stupid voices. We previewed moves before they were open to the public, sitting in the exact center of the theater, because that was where Julie liked to sit. Julie had driven a sweet, 1965 Corvair through high school and then her dad sold it after a family member passed away and left behind a 1970- something Monte Carlo... the color? A goldish- brown. Julie was NOT happy, but it had something to do with gas and insurance. We signed up for an 8 a.m. College Algebra class and on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, Julie would pick me up for school and we would go through the drive- through of Mickey D's and order two medium Cokes and two apple pies each. Yummy. Julie got The Rachel cut and sported it well, as only Julie could. I was jealous. I mean, hello, who didn't want The Rachel.

There was the Halloween where I dressed up as Genie and Julie did my hair and makeup, walking around campus with me as I granted wishes. There was the New Year's Eve where we ended up catching up right before midnight to open a bottle of champagne together. There was the youth group club we belonged to in which we signed up to deliver flowers and balloons on Valentine's Day for the local grocery store. During that time, we saw a woman wearing an ill- fitting and looking dress (moo- moo?) with sunflowers all over it. This began our Suuuuunflooooweeeerrrr conversation and our nickname for each other. This began years and years of sending each other things in the mail, from books to pictures to cards, to one another with sunflowers. There was the day we were cleaning out her bedroom and found the Smud. Spackled Smud. Smud from Nickelodeon.

The infamous Smud nickname came to be. No one ever knew what the hell we were talking about. Sunflower, Smud...... and oh dear lord if there is not an organization in San Francisco named Smud and we shall become employed there. There was the year that the Newman Club had to decide which one of us would represent them for homecoming queen candidate. She won, but not after we choked each other out, slammed one another against the door... all in good fun people! I ended up being nominated for another organization. Ultimately, Julie was a finalist and represented quite beautifully. Our fun together was had that night when we sang the National Anthem before the start of the basketball game. That same year was spent going on a mission trip and skiing during Spring Break. We spent the first few days on an Indian Reservation in New Mexico. Here we helped to repair the small community and participated in some traditions.

Such as the Smoke.

Yes, the Smoke. Sort of like a sweat lodge, or sauna. Normally the members would sit naked together while sweating out the demons in a small teepee. Julie and I being the only girls, we opted to buy a couple of towels from Kmart and wear those. Of course, we ran through the Kmart with various towels wrapped around our clothes, arms flailing and crazy voices protruding our mouths. We had a picture taken of us after the Smoke, white towels filthy and skin red as lobsters. We smoked peyote and even watched Joe's Apartment with the group. We left to Colorado to go skiing, where Julie mastered snowboarding while I just continued up to the black diamond trails with the guys. We spent time soaking in the jacuzzi at our hotel and yukking it up with the other members of the group.

I think that last year of school at Garden, before we went our separate ways, was the most eventful. This was the year her parents separated after 25 years of marriage. Julie and I had spent many, many afternoons cuddled up together on the couch in the Green Room of the theater department and people would often walk in on us, stop and stare in a stumped manner, only to turn and walk away. This was where I consoled her as she cried over this crappy decision they had made. She and I participated in a production together, where she played "bartender", wearing her cute little hot pants and black vest with white shirt and black tie. We bought matching bikinis, hers a metallic blue and mine a metallic purple and we were spotted playing put- put in our swimsuits and shorts. On graduation day, her graduation, Julie took meticulous measures to perfectly construct a sunflower on her cap. That was Julie, everything she did was well thought out and perfect.

But that was the last year we were together. 1997. I would be moving to Phoenix with John. Julie was applying to airlines to be a flight attendant, wanting to travel the world. I was not done with school and would continue with my bachelor's degree when he and I settled in wherever. Julie and I said our goodbyes the night before and at noon that day, as John and I headed west out of Kansas, I broke down in tears because I already missed her. I would later find out that she started crying at the same time. Julie went to work for Delta and later United. The scariest day of my life was September 11, 2001. John had picked me up from work, but I was on his cell phone trying to reach her, unable to do so. When I found out that there was a United flight which had gone down in Pennyslvania, I was horrified. I would later be contacted by her and advised that they had just taken off from Atlanta when everything occurred and were immediately grounded.

Julie had visited me when we moved to Ohio. Her goal: Cedar Point. We spent an evening riding roller coasters, demon drops and water rides. We gorged ourselves on alcohol, Wendy's and bar food. We played pool, we laughed, we lounged. Julie was there for my baby shower, sitting by my side as I opened gifts. We talked for hours on end on the phone. No conversation was shorter than 4 hours. Julie was now living in Denver, after leaving Delta and Portland. Here, she was reunited with someone she knew from high school. She made me promise that no proposal would be given to her on a "holiday" such as Christmas or Valentine's. Brett and Julie were engaged on Valentine's Day 2002. The wedding was set for July 2003, only being pushed up to November of 2002 to ensure Brett's grandfather could make the wedding. I was pregnant with Zach, but would not miss out on this day to stand up with my best friend. And of course, who would have wanted to miss out on me reading Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee" to them and dancing to our song with Julie- Wind Beneath My Wings? I would not have missed Julie sticking her tongue to the ice sculpture at the end of the night, leaving the ballroom with her yelling "I'm thtuck! I'm thtuck!"

Julie no longer works for the airlines. After the attacks and her marriage, Brett and Julie moved back to Kansas to pursue bachelor's degrees- Brett's second and Julie's first. They have been married for nine years now. The purpose of this long, hilarious story of ours is my gift (sort of) to her upon completion of her Master's degree and graduation from Kansas State University on December 9th. She worked so long and hard for this, originally intending on going to PA school, but instead going for a Public Health degree. They just moved to Kansas City to finally begin the life they have been working toward for the last six or seven years.

Julie is a person who spends a lot of time thoroughly planning what she wants. And I mean right down to the last detail. Julie sticks to her convictions and beliefs. She is well educated on topics and most people think her to be a snob, but she's not. Julie is well rounded with enjoying hobbies such as golf, ballets, symphonies and has put her entire being into her marriage. When the time comes for her to have children, she will be one of the best moms I know and won't do so until she has her house. And a dog. Julie will never drive a minivan, but will drive an SUV, like an Escalade. Julie is classy with tastes running modern, but classic. Her styles will never die out and she never does anything conventional, but often traditional. You won't find her on Facebook, Twitter or Google+, refusing to give in to living a "social network life". Julie listens to country or classic rock. She is not like me with my Eminem, Buckcherry and Kid Rock. But given the chance, you would most definitely find us at a Keith Urban or Tom Petty concert.

Fun facts about Julie and I: My birthday is April 10, her mom's is April 12. Julie's birthday is June 24, my mom's is June 26th.

We were both married in November, a year apart. Both of our wedding days were unseasonably warm, sunny and NO SNOW considering where we lived.

We will have completed a Master's degree six months apart. We both attended KSU, although mine was only for a semester :) Both our schools' (college) colors are purple and white.

We made a pact to travel to Greece when we turned 30. I think we may have to wait until we are 40.

Favorite shows: Friends, Grey's Anatomy

We once made a will for each other in a drunken stupor, sitting at Denny's smoking cigarettes. The waitress was our signed witness.

I have no idea what her favorite color is.

Her favorite flower is the Calla Lily. Mine is the tulip.

The last time we saw each other was at her wedding in 2002. That's 9 years ago. That's too long. Lord help the city stuck with us reuniting.

We both have maiden names that were always mispronounced, despite the spellings being very easy. Duh.

I love her very much, she is like a sister to me. Even though she has her own sister. She understands me and never judges. Yes, we've had a couple fights, but dammit, who hasn't?

She refused to call me on my birthday because she was upset about something happening in her life and didn't want to ruin my day. HELLO! Call me anytime you goof!

She is the most beautiful person I know.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Friday Night Lights

Friday night lights in the Marchese home means baseball. Now, for all my die hard football friends out there, don't get offended or defensive. Yes, I stole the title which was originally meant for the familiar sounds and smells of our high school football team rushing the field. The boys of Fall who play their hearts out for the chance to go on to that coveted State division spot. But my boys are the boys of Spring. Pardon my bias for baseball, but it's what I married into and had planned all along for my kids.

Little league in Arizona is no different than anywhere else. From the little peanuts in T-Ball to the young men in "major leagues", all in their uniforms carrying their bat bags. It doesn't matter what their age is, those boys (and sometimes the occasional girl) step up to that home plate and bang the bat, practicing their menacing stare at the pitcher. Boof boof! Boof Boof! The red dirt flies up in clouds of dust, the sun sets over the mountains or across the field. The pitcher stares back looking at the catcher, raises his arms up, brings one knee up.... WOOSH! That white ball goes hurdling at the batter, he swings..... will he make contact?

CRACK! "FOUL BALL!" the umpire cries out as all heads swing upward to watch where that ball is going to go ready to yell "watch out, ball!" to anyone standing nearby not observing the game. Boof boof! Boof boof! The batter bangs the bat against the plate again, stares are exchanged, WOOSH! CRACK! The bat is eagerly thrown to the wayside as the batter takes off for first base wanting to slide so badly, but knowing he can't on first base. For some reason, that's what the kids at this age love to do.... slide. They will even do it coming up to home plate regardless if that ball is all the way out in right field.

I sat up in the score box last Friday night with John and a mom from the other team. We were doing the pitch count, she was doing the score book. We sat there and laughed together, helping one another keep stats, reminding the other that we were not allowed to "coach" from the sidelines as we were accustomed to doing in the Farm league. Nope, the Minor leagues are big business and us nervous, worried moms are not even allowed to go into the dugouts to console our children who are crying because they struck out or got hit by the ball. She turned to us and commented how she would not want to be anywhere else in the world right then other than where she was: in her home city watching her son play baseball on a Friday night. I had said the same thing to John the night before, that it was like the perfect night watching Zach play ball and sitting next to John on the bleachers cheering while Adam ran around with his friends. The other mom even commented how baseball families are always the nicest families, no matter what team they are rooting for and that is true.

Adam crouches down as catcher in front of us. I'm terrified that Carson is going to pitch that ball right into Adam's head, but that's what the catcher's gear is for. Adam doesn't let that ball get past him. The batter from the other team steps up to the plate, then I worry that the bat is going to make contact with Adam's catcher's helmet. I say a silent prayer to God to let this kid be okay as he's already been hit in the mouth by a ball that night. We watch the batter swing and hit the ball down the center. He runs to first as our boys scramble to get that ball to the base. The mom next to me is furiously watching all these plays making sure she's checking everything off and counting how many runs come in as only five runs are allowed per inning. I'm keeping track of the pitch counts to make sure that no one pitcher gets up to 65. Coach Sean swings by after each inning to see if we have the same number of counts.

Our boys are up to bat. We watch a scary play in which the other team throws a ball from second to third and the ball hits the third basemen square in the throat. No one is rushing out to the field to check on him and I want to jump up myself and run to him. What the hell are these people thinking? Finally I yell out that someone needs to get out there. The coach finally sidles out and checks him out, ushering him back to the dugout. It's been quite a night already as we had four kids not show up and thought we would have to forfeit. They've had two injuries now. It's freezing as we sit up in the box with our coats on shivering. Where are those 80 degree nights we are so accustomed to? The wind starts to kick up when the umpire sweeps the dirt off the plate and we cough as it enters our sinus passages.

Spectators ask us for the score. Adam's team is leading 10- 6. Dogs are observing the white ball being thrown around everywhere, wagging their tails wishing they could go after it. Siblings are at the snack bar asking for nachos and parents are happily cheering on their children. The other mom leans over to me and states that she has to pee. I start to laugh, understanding how she feels. Cameron is on the steps behind me talking to John. I see Zach on the bleachers surrounded by two other boys as he plays a game on his DS. WOOSH! Another pitch is thrown.... CRACK! The ball goes way out in left field as players round the bases, bringing the other team's score up to 9. "Hey ump! Was that call safe for that player or is he out?" the other mom asks as we have observed the third base coach confer with the other coaches when a player left the base too early for home.

Finally, the game has ended. They are only allotted two hours for these games and our team was leading in score anyway. The teams have quick meetings before all those boys make mad dashes for the snack bar to get their treats. Adam comes out of the line holding an icee and a lemonade. He's so proud of himself, knowing he did a good job. Our goodbyes are called out to the other families we know from both teams.

So, there you have it..... we don't have cheerleaders in cute little uniforms jumping around and doing fun dances. We don't have a band belting out Gary Glitter's "HEY!" or even the line for the players to run through as they leave the locker room for the field. But we have peanuts, the seventh inning stretch, players spitting from the pitcher's mound (that's for you Jay!) and adorable little sluggers across Scottsdale and the U.S. who long to be like A- Rod or Randy Johnson.

And I would not trade my Friday Night Lights or the other three or four nights of the week for anything.