I met Pam almost 50 years ago in eighth grade. I sat next to her on the bus to Joe Walker Junior High. She was petite, beautiful, and terrified. Her family had just moved to the area, and she did not know anyone.
We became fast friends, sharing favorite music, talking about our pasts, and laughing at the absurdities of life. We walked to the country store or sat on the swings at the elementary school, and our friendship bloomed. As I got to know her better, I learned one of life’s certainties: Boys loved Pam and went to ridiculous adolescent lengths to get her attention. Being an awkward, too tall tweener, I had never witnessed such a fuss and was confused, annoyed, and a little envious. But there was more to Pam than adoring teenage boys. She was smart. She aced her classes, took more challenging subjects, and earned special academic awards. She also had an incredible artistic sense. I still remember a beautifully rendered rose she drew, and this was over four decades ago.
After two years, my family moved away. Pam and I wrote letters and talked on the phone. I saw her through marriage and her children. She saw me through marriage, a daughter, and divorce. With young families, our phone calls became fewer and farther between, but when the busyness lifted, we reconnected as if we’d never been apart. She visited me in South Orange County, and we caught up over the crashing waves of the San Clemente Pier. I went to her home in Las Vegas for the Fourth of July. (Her husband, Tony, kindly turned up the air conditioning knowing the 110 plus temperatures would probably kill me!) We sat in her pool, fully clothed drinking champagne. Her family joined us, and we stayed up until 4 in the morning, not wanting to sleep but finally collapsing into our beds. They took a trip to Cambria, and I visited them. We went wine tasting, me sitting in the back seat with her 25-year-old boys yelling, like little kids, “He’s looking at me!” Her son Jessie joked about crushing on me with hilarious flirty comments. “Hey, Maaarrrryyyy….” For Mother’s Day, her son Jason got us special tickets on the High Roller. We danced, marveled at the city below, and felt so lucky to be alive. When I had my book launch at Laguna Beach Books, Pam used her gambling winnings to make a surprise appearance along with Jason, her sister, Carolyn, and niece, Katie. I was so honored.
Through children, husbands, highs, and lows, we usually talk at least once a week knowing each other’s stories. She knew me when I was the gawky junior high kid, and I knew her when she was never that.
Being friends with Pam is definitely part of a life well-lived.
Happy Birthday, Pam!
M.J. Minerman writes for spinsters around the world who have "not found their lids and are pursuing lives well-lived."