Laurie Thielmeier met Christine Tan in sixth grade.
It was Laurie’s first day at the Academy of the Visitation and the nuns placed the students in alphabetical order, and so Thielmeier met Tan. That day she came home all excited and told her mother that she had met the neatest girl at school. They went on to become best friends.
I know this because I’ve heard this story 37 times — 30 times by Laurie, seven times by her mother. Laurie and Christine have been BFF since before the term was invented. Laurie would take a bullet for Christine. I’m not sure she’d take a bullet for me. More likely, she would push me in front of the bullet meant for Christine. And I’m fine with that.
When Christine announced that she was moving back to St. Louis along with her husband John and daughter Emma, it was possibly the happiest day of Laurie’s life. Maybe the birth of her son ranks higher. Maybe.
I don’t have a best friend. My friendships have been sometimes intense, often ephemeral, almost always tied in to time and location.
My first best friends were Tom and Bobby. Bobby was a year older than me, Tom was two years older, which made us the only guys roughly the same age living in Cane Hill. Tom and Bobby didn’t always get along, but I got along with them fine. I left Cane Hill but Tom and Bobby stayed. I still see Tom occasionally when I go home to visit. I haven’t seen Bobby in ages.
When I turned 6 I left Cane Hill and spent the next 13 years as a student in the Stockton School District. My first best friend in elementary school was Warren. I knew that friendship had gone astray when we came back to school one year after summer break and everyone was calling Warren “Charlie.” I never knew why everyone starting calling Warren “Charlie” but I knew that we must have drifted apart since it happened without my knowledge. I haven’t seen Warren — I mean Charlie — in ages.
My next best friends were Jay and J.R. Jay and J.R. didn’t always get along, but I got along with them fine. I still keep in touch with Jay. I haven’t seen J.R. in ages.
There were around 80 kids in the Class of 1980 and I got along with most of them. There was Ronnie and Dean and Mark and Mike and Scott and Kirk and Tony and David and Phillip and others I can’t remember. Some of them I keep in touch with via Facebook, some I haven’t seen in ages. Mike lives in St. Louis but I never see him. Mark died of leukemia when I was in college.
Due mainly to band I made friends with several upperclassmen and underclassmen — Clark and John and Don and Aaron and Rod and others I can’t remember. Some annoy me with their political posts on Facebook, some I haven’t seen in ages. I often wonder where John is right now.
There were girls at Stockton but I didn’t form many close friendships with them. Nothing lasting, anyway. There was Julie and Robin and Jill and Janette and Jennifer and many I can’t remember. Some became pen pals when I went off to college, but that lasted a year, maybe two.
Except for Cheryl. I met Cheryl through the drum section and had a serious crush on her for the next eight years. Since it takes two to turn a crush into something else, we instead became good friends. She kept writing me even after everyone else stopped. We don’t see each other very often but we check in on each other regularly.
The other significant friend I made through drumming was Darren. If you read the comments section you’ve encountered Darren. He’s the one who’s always bad-mouthing me. That’s the kind of friendship we have, and I like it that way.
College brought new friends — Marc and Chris and Ron and Ward and Chris and Rob and Plegge and Charlie and Hoog and Liz and Laura Leigh and Laurie and others I can’t remember. Some of them keep in touch, some of them show up for Joelfest, some of them I haven’t seen in ages, one of them I married.
After college I spent a year in Kansas City at the now-defunct Blue Valley Gazette. I met some good people during that time but I haven’t seen any of them in ages. I sometimes wonder whatever happened to Marlene.
I spent a year in Springfield at the Springfield News-Leader. I met some good people during that time but only a couple became friends — Chris, whom I haven’t seen in ages, and Julie. Julie moved to St. Louis and together we attended every Harry Potter screening. I haven’t seen her since the last one. I actually spend more time with her husband Paul. Paul goes with me to most sci-fi/action/superhero movies. He’s a nice guy who never wears long pants, no matter the weather. He also mistakenly believes The Fountain is a good movie.
In 1989 we moved to St. Charles and I spent the next 20 years at the St. Charles Journal. I met a lot of people in that time, mainly because turnover was high.
Have you heard of the primacy/recency effect? That’s where people remember the first things they encounter and the last things, but forget what comes in the middle. That’s what my Journal relationships are like: I made many friends in the early days — Amy and Chris and Susan and Cindy and Michelle and Mickey — and many friends in the later days — Julie and Melissa and Ryan and Yellow and Carrie and Carrie and Gabe and Rachie and Melissa and Stevie and Jami and Eric and Melissa and Megan and Ryan and Lanny and others too numerous to list — but there’s a big hole in the middle where I can’t remember who was on staff. Some of them I keep in touch with, some I hang with regularly, some I haven’t seen in ages.
In November I started work at the St. Louis Arc. The staff is some of the nicest, kindest people I have ever worked with (of course all my previous work experience is in newsrooms, so go figure). I tend to think that’s because of the nature of the work, but then I work there, so it must be more than that.
I decided to not get back on the friendship wheel and wanted to just keep things professional. They’re good people but I don’t need any more friends, right? But then Dan invites me to his improv shows and then Audrey talks Tina into have a pool party and then that’s a success so Audrey has another pool party at her parents’ place and now, well, here I go again…
Oh, and after the pool party we went out to dinner with Christine, John and Emma.
NOTE: I knew when I started naming names that I would leave out someone important. If that someone is you, my apologies. It’s not you, it’s me.