Each year Kennedy has gone to school she has asked me this question, "Who was your best friend in kindergarten/first grade/second grade/third grade?" Each time I haven't had to think about it. I haven't had to think about which teacher I had or who was in my class or what age I was at the time. I'm sure every member of my family who reads this post answered the question in their head as soon as they heard it. Each year the answer has been the same- Jaime Bellinger.
Each week during Family Council when it was my turn to bring up a question or concern I would always ask if Jaime could come over to spend the night. It was so predictable, in fact, that my family mocked me mercilessly. Or maybe it was just Derek. Jaime and I grew up together. We both lived out in the country, in the same general area. We rode the bus together for many years, until we were riding to school with friends who had cars of their own. In second grade, Jaime's boyfriend was a THIRD grader who rode our bus. So we planned a bus wedding for them. The bus would pass my house on the way out to pick up kids and then the route doubled back and went by my house again on the way back to school. I would get on the bus when it came back by, unless I really wanted to be on early for some reason, you know, like a wedding. I got on the bus early and we decorated and had a ceremony and ate goodies. (I was related to the bus driver and Jaime and I were his favorites so we got to do that sort of thing.) Over the years we talked about boys and New Kids on the Block. We told each other everything and knew how to make each other laugh. We played in band together (she played trumpet, I played trombone), played sports together, and, of course, went to class together.
With our sixth grade teachers:
I especially remember French class. Jaime and Monsieur Dalbec were not the best of friends. (Actually, I think he secretly liked her, but they gave each other a tough time.) He told her one day that she couldn't chew gum and do something (speak french? walk?) at the same time. Jaime was offended, rightly so, so she emphatically and defiantly, spit her gum out on the table, looking Mr Dalbec in the eye the whole time. It was very funny, and incredibly risky considering his hot temper. (Remember, I went to school in a time when teachers still flipped kids out of their desks and pegged them with chalk and erasers.)
My 16th birthday:
Despite her desire to appear tough and sarcastic, Jaime always had the biggest heart in the world. She was always there for a friend with a hug and a one-liner that would bring a smile. She was trusting, making her gullible, which our friend Julie and I exploited, somewhat, and also making her prey to guys who were less than honorable. I hated seeing her hurt so many times by so many guys who would take advantage of her big heart. As we went into our high school years we drifted apart. We were always friends, just not as close, not best friends anymore.
We graduated high school and haven't done well keeping in touch.
She did come to my wedding and I was so glad she did. I had never been able to imagine getting married without her there. She is part of who I am and has always held a big place in my heart. Regardless of how far apart we drift as we age, there is a part of my life that she knows better than anyone else because she lived it with me. She knows the child Molly intimately and she always will. I wish that everyone had a Jaime Bellinger in their life because it is a precious thing, indeed.