My Funny Valentine

As this year’s Feb. 14th holiday approaches, I think about my loved ones, family and close friends. I’d like to say that I shared my first Valentine with the most popular boy in the class but I am pretty sure it wasn’t the case. Most likely my first, “Will You Be Mine” note went to my 1st grade BFF, Terri Trespicio. Terri and I were inseparable growing up. We shared our dreams, our lunch, our notes and all of our secrets. I recently came upon this photo of Terri and me from 3rd grade and was reminded of how fortunate I am to still have her near. After forwarding this picture to her, she agreed to compose a “This I Believe” type essay in honor of us:

My Uncle Bob used to tell me that you don’t make new friends; you find them. Even the idea of making them seems funny to me now, the notion that you could craft just such a person, if you had the right tools, the exact ingredients. Friendship is not an act of independent creation; it’s more like a discovery two people make at the same time.

Think about all the people you meet through the years—whole schools of them flit by, on the street, in your neighborhood, all those classrooms, jobs, parties, dinners. Most of them slip away, especially if the only thing holding you together was sheer circumstance. Only a very few of them stick.

There’s a class picture from Mrs. McCarthy’s third grade class that I love. I can name every kid in the picture. How could I not? We saw each other every day from kindergarten through eighth grade. What’s even more shocking, aside from the hairstyles and the clothing (which, at that age, we can still blame our parents for), is how little we have changed. How much, in fact, we are who we are then and still.

The little girl in the sausage curls and saddle shoes, four seats down from me (I’m in the purple pants—and how I railed at my mother for not putting me in a dress or skirt like all the other girls), is Annie Mehl, a little girl whose life my own tiny world revolved around. We shared snacks and stories and sticker collections. We planted rubber snakes in the teacher’s desk, went neck and neck for top of the class. We had crushes on the same boy (Chris O’Connell, plaid shirt, far right). And we made each other laugh so hard one time (probably more than once) she fired soda through her nose like a geyser.

I just moved to Manhattan from Boston, and we met for lunch recently in midtown. I admit, there was a time when I thought that I might have lost her, when I wondered if my only memories I’d ever have of Ann were behind me. I’m happy to admit I was wrong about that. Like two boats anchored to the same spot on long leads, we drifted here and there, but have come floating back.

She smiles the same cheeky smile when she sees me come in. And then we set about finding exactly where we left off. At some point, I say something typical of me through a mouthful of turkey sandwich, and she laughs (as I know she will)—that big, hearty, deep-in-the-gut kind of laugh. Right then, the world seems righted in a small way, like when you realize you’re not lost at all—when you discover where, it turns out, you’ve been all along.

As the Senior Editor of Body+Soul Magazine, Terri entertains and dazzles me with her written word. Though I don’t see her every day anymore, I’m glad that we’ve managed to stay in touch throughout the years. As you reflect on her piece, I encourage you to take time out this week to remember all the funny valentines who have crossed your path – past and present – and count the many ways in which they have enriched your life.

Thank you, Terri!