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Friends are friends forever if the lipstick’s the right shade of red

[11/28/04]I was what might be called “unchurched” until Cindy Callahan came along.

I was 13, and my family had just moved into a new house, a new neighborhood. Lazy Sunday breakfasts fighting over the newspaper had replaced our earlier routine of Sunday school.

My new friend couldn’t wrap her brain around the idea of Sunday without church. So began Cindy’s campaign to get me to go to church with her.

Cindy was outgoing and confident. I was not. She was tall with short, brown hair. I was short, with long, blonde hair. She had this huge, happy smile with white, straight teeth that she used often. My rare smiles were with my lips pressed together because I had a mouth full of metal and rubber that made me self-conscious about my teeth.

At 12 years old Cindy Callahan had more grace and poise than women three times her age.

Cindy taught me a lot of things. She told me that the smile I thought hid my braces looked stupid and that I shouldn’t worry about showing my metal. She told me to keep my head up when I walked. And she told me that even if I wanted my hair to feather back, the curls would stay in my hair better if I rolled under instead of back.

But probably the most lasting thing she did besides giving me my first tube of candy apple red lipstick was to get me to go with her to church. I said no for months. I resented that she thought that just because I didn’t go to church regularly that I was without God or religion.

How she finally wore me down was telling me about the other kids in her youth group. It was unusual in that its gender ratio was a little unbalanced. All boys. Except for Cindy. And to hear Cindy tell it, they were all fine. And, although they were nice boys, by fine, she didn’t mean nice. She meant … fine. I had to see for myself.

For the next five or six years, Cindy and I ran with these boys or tried, anyway. Sunday school, youth group and Bible study. There were church trips, short and long.

Our youth choir was lopsided. My weak alto either warbled in with the tenor line or strained awfully to meet Cindy’s strong first soprano.

I’m going to try to alphabetize them, and I hope I don’t leave anybody out. There was Alan, Barry, Ben, Dale, David, David Mc., Franc, Jimbo, Johnny, Johnny and Monte.

Outside school, our lives revolved around the church and the boys. We were both way too girly to pull off acting like two of the boys. We were almost always last to be included on the inside jokes.

So, we took refuge in each other, and bonded over schemes for getting their attention. Some of our bids for attention make us now some 20 years later cover our faces and cringe in embarrassed laughter.

Although most of our conversations were about clothes, boys and makeup in that order I think that we should be proud that many of these conversations took place under the awning between the sanctuary and the education building at Leavell Woods United Methodist Church.

Our big moment was in 1983 on a two-week work mission to the Southwest Indian School outside Phoenix. In between painting and raking and mopping, Cindy and I decided it would be just high-larious if we stole Franc’s underwear.

Looking back, it would have been WAY funnier if we had taken everybody’s underwear. But Franc was our mark. Don’t know why except that he was really smart still one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. The bonus was that the preppiness made him well, let’s just say he was rather particular about his clothes.

We didn’t take them all. That, I said, would be too obvious. For some reason, we didn’t want him to notice right away.

So, we squirreled eight or nine pairs of briefs in our dorm room. And we waited. For what, I don’t know.

We’d estimated that we’d left him three or four pair, so after three or four days, we’d giggle almost uncontrollably every time he walked by in his khaki shorts. Although we didn’t know the phrase, we wondered if he was going commando yet.

We had the slow awakening that unless we told him, he would never know that we took them, so we ‘fessed up, had a mild laugh and gave him back his underwear. Yes, we were lame.

From then on, I think we stopped trying so hard and decided to just enjoy the scenery. We may never have made the boys’ club, but Cindy and I were friends forever, like the old song says. We graduated from high school just like we planned, we were roommates for a year just like we planned. We were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings, just like we planned, but somewhere along the way, our plans left each other out.

Once we got upset if we only talked once a day, but the distance, her children, my work and life mean Cindy and I feel lucky to talk a few times a year now. Until the last few days.

A few weeks ago, my inbox shocked me when I saw David Mc’s name in the sender line. He was feeling nostalgic, he said, and started Googling everybody. He cobbled together a reunion of sorts of 10 or 12 of the old youth group.

There were no real shocking revelations except that Cindy and I can still burn up phone wires. And no matter how old we get, our priorities are still pretty much the same as 25 years ago. Tuesday night, I am driving on the interstate in the rain to see my former churchmates, and my phone rings; I see Cindy’s cell number in the ID box.

“Hey, it’s me. You’re on your way? Where are you? What did you decide to wear?”

Sonya Kimbrell is features editor of The Vicksburg Post. E-mail her at skimbrell@vicksburgpost.com.