The most poignant, difficult parts of my books always come from personal experience. In NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT, one of those passages is Nora’s experience in high school, where she’s a lonely kid, uncomfortable in her rapidly changing, adolescent body, a loner at a time of life when being a part of a group seems hugely important.
There was a girl in my neighborhood who went to the same school, and we’d share a ride. She was very, very beautiful and struck me as a little tough. She had a boyfriend. She smoked, in front of her parents, even, which was so bold and foreign that I could barely wrap my brain around it. She knew how to wear makeup; I didn’t even start with that stuff till I was 20 or so (and have made up for the lost years many times over, I’m sure). In a nutshell, she was everything I was not, and our proximity and her confidence made me feel…well, invisible.
Then one day in my freshman year, a girl I didn’t know well turned around and said, “You’re funny,” She smiled at me. She had a mouthful of braces, a pretty face and the best laugh ever. Her name was Kathleen, and all of a sudden, I had a best friend. And man, did I need one! (Hi, Kath! Miss you!)
In college, when I was horribly ill-prepared to leave home, where I didn’t drink alcohol and had never kissed a boy, I basically hid in my room and went to classes. Sometimes I skipped dinner because I didn’t have
someone to eat with. But then, Catherine and I found each other. We’d get enraged over social injustice, listen to David Bowie, nurse each other through relationship woes. She’s the godmother to the Princess, and when I had Dearest Son, she walked me step by step through mothering a preemie, since she’d had three of her own. We talk or message each other every few days.
At my very first job out of college, I met Heidi, a few years older, already married, so pretty and vivacious. When my father died, she came to his wake, her newborn in the car with her husband as she waited in line at the funeral home. I babysat her little ones, pretending they were mine, and last year, I went to the oldest daughter’s wedding. In February, I’ll go to California and see Heidi again, and I can’t wait.
Life has given me at least a dozen best friends. When the chips are down, my pals rally around me like an army, and I do the same for them to the best of my ability, which I think is pretty good…otherwise, why would I have the greatest friends ever?
One of the things I so liked about Nora from NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT was that she knew how to be a good friend…and accept friendship, too. Girl power, yo. There’s nothing quite like it.