This time, I’m not exaggerating.

I peed my pants in first grade under the tutelage of one “Mrs. Yamoshita,” whom to this day I maintain was the cruelest schoolteacher ever to roam–no, stalk— the halls of a public institution. We were not allowed to speak or get out of our chairs (in first grade!), so I sat with my legs crossed and my hand raised one morning for what seemed like hours. She was grading papers at her desk (giving us all Fs, no doubt) and never looked up. Since I wasn’t allowed to stand up or call out to her, few alternatives presented themselves. I peed all over the tiled floor so naturally a huge, clear puddle ensued (kids these days don’t know how lucky they are with carpeted classrooms.) When the students shuffled out for recess, I sat stuck, quite literally, to my seat. A rugged blond hottie I’d been eyeing all year stopped on his way out to ask me what “that water” was under my chair. I quietly told him that I’d spilled 7-Up. He gave me a weird look, which did not surprise me, seeing that a) this was the 1970s and kids hardly drank soda, let alone brought it to school, and b) we were all barely surviving together under a Stalinist regime.

Upon my dreaded discovery, the Great Mrs. Y’s solution did not disappoint. Rather than phoning my mom to come rescue me, she marched me straight down to the nurse’s office wherein she promptly fished out an old pair of black-and-red plaid bell-bottoms that must have once belonged to a waifish kindergarten boy, seeing as they were criminally short and tight on my own 41-pound body. In all her mercy, she also rummaged around the Lost and Found until acquiring a pair of thick, white asexual underpants. (Remember these–circa 1979?) I was instructed to remove my wet, smelly clothing and put on the aforementioned garb. Apparently questioning the hygenic properties of wearing anonymously used underpants was out of the question. I was six; she was six-hundred. And mean. What could I do? I dressed—with a deep shudder resulting from post-urination chills and a stab of soul-damning fear. What would the other kids say? And how much longer would I have to be alone in a small room with this woman?

In sum: Rather than leaving early to spend a cozy afternoon at home, I crept down the school hallway Spidey-style–with my back and legs plastered against the wall–hoping that this would somehow cover up my new flashy pants, along with my newfound shame. It did not.

It did not, Mrs. Yamoshita. And I know you’re still out there. People like you don’t die.

It’s a Steel Magnolias/Ya Ya Sisterhood/Fried Green Tomatoes kind of thing.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my friends.  I’ve wanted to write about my friends for some time, but feared the idea would result in the kind of mushy and saccharin post that the very friends I mush-ed and saccharinn-ed over would detest.  So I decided against it.  But the idea kept popping up.  No no, I told myself.  Leave the ya-ya posts to the ya-ya bloggers–there’s plenty of ’em out there.  Then, last weekend, I saw a very dear old friend who I hadn’t seen in a long time, and I started thinking about my friends all over again.  And I got flustered and happy, all over again.  And I decided, “To heck with my friends, I’m gonna write that darn post about them.”  (My friends and I don’t swear, you see.) (At least not in front of each other.)

I have great taste in friends.  Not to brag, but I do.  I don’t have one good friend who I do not deeply admire or of whom, more often than not, I am crazy jealous.  I have friends who are gifted in music and mathematics.  I have friends who are gifted in sewing and cooking, decorating and design.  I have friends who are athletic, stylish, organized, creative, interesting, interested.  I have friends who manage young children with patience and flair, keeping their dignity intact (I never managed that one) and friends who scale mountains at school or at work to make sure their children  have every opportunity one mother can breathe into them.

Many of my friends are very smart, most of them are funny, but all of them are fun.  The other night, I knew I was with a good friend when we we started laughing so hard that she actually rolled off of the couch onto the floor, where she lay face down and stayed for quite awhile, shaking and wetting my carpet with her tears.  After she made it back up to the couch, we kept laughing, neither of us feeling a need to comment on the ridiculous scenario that had just taken place between us two dorky moms.  No Comment Necessary; that’s the mark of a good friend.

Which segues into what is, in my opinion, the best thing about having good friends:  the talk.  Forget “Walking the Walk”, I’m all about Talking the Talk.  I love to talk, I love to listen to you talk, I love to talk with you about religion or politics or plastic surgery or paninis or pantyhose or the pariah in the PTA.  I love, love, love the Talk.  My poor husband.  He’s lucky I have such good friends.

Some of my friends have struggles, and I watch them as they deftly maneuver trials that would send me to bed with the covers pulled over my head.  These friends are Real Grownups: smart and strong.  I watch them as they help themselves, and their families, then turn and help each other.  I observe them with open admiration, but secretly hope that that I’ll never have to develop such strength of my own, strength that they’ve earned the hard way.  Yet I know, one day,  I will.  And when I do, I also know who will be waiting at the bottom of that freefall, with arms and brownie pans wide open.

Other friends of mine aren’t struggling with big things, but are enduring the supposedly little things that at some point encumber us all:  stress, insecurity, guilt, regret.  Sometimes all of these little things back up into a Big Thing, and when that Big Thing hits, the only way through it is by talking with a good friend.  At least, that’s how it works for me.  And it does work.  Every time.

Am I too old to take such delight in my friends?

However life is treating them at present, I have noticed that my Great Taste In Friends leads me to women who invariably have one thing in common:  they are each trying hard–so, so hard–to do the very best they can. With everything.  Kids, lack-of-kids, husbands, lack-of-husbands, school, church, at-home, at-work.  Some are wealthy, some are not.  Some are laid-back, others admirably disciplined.  Short, tall, fair, dark, skinny and not-so-skinny (my favorite of the friends, if I’m allowed to say so.)  Each one is pushing herself forward, moving her own mountains and, most importantly, letting me follow her around like a loyal (not-so-skinny) puppy.  She considers me her friend, too–who’d have thought?  And since I have such Great Taste In Friends, that compliment is huge.

Many of my friends live close by, and some live far, far away.  But if you’re still hanging on through this shamelessly sentimental post, my guess is that you’re one of my friends, and you do my Great Taste proud.  And I don’t care if you’re the smart or pretty or spiritual or funny or frumpy one.  I’m just glad you’re here.

Worst conversation ever.

Child:      Mom, what are sects?

Me:         Sects?

Child:     Yeah, sects. What are they?

Me:         Well, um, they’re different groups of the same church, located in various regions of the country and…

Child:     No, Mom, what are sects??

Me:         I’m explaining it to you, honey.

Child:     No.  I keep hearing kids talk about “sects” on the playground.  What are they?



Me:          We’ll talk about it later.