I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pondering Julia

By Heidi Larson Geis

Photo by JenMarie123

I met Julia in 1975, the summer before I started first grade.  My dad’s job as an air traffic controller (the one who actually talked to D. B. Cooper, but that’s an entirely different blog) had moved us from Seattle to a little town in southeastern Washington State. The temperature soared to 117 degrees the day we moved into our Cape Cod house on Boyer Avenue in Walla Walla, Washington, and I can still remember wishing we had stayed at our hotel so I could escape the heat with a dip in the pool.

That was the day our new next door neighbor introduced me to the doe eyed girl who lived on the corner. Julia and I became fast friends. We were inseparable, walking to and from school together, and spending our lunches and recesses together. Julia’s parents were both prominent medical professionals, so she was pretty much a latch key kid. She began showing up at my house for our walk to school earlier and earlier every morning, until finally she was having breakfast and devotions with me and my mom every day.

By the third grade, Julia and I were practically joined at the hip. We were insanely imaginative, and as a result, found ridiculously creative ways to get into trouble. On one occasion, we decided we were Perfumers and my bedroom reeked of roses and Lily of the Valley for months. Another time, we attempted to be circus acrobats, resulting in one of my many trips to the ER with a concussion. All of this ended in the middle of 3rd grade when my parents decided to move to a house across town and I had to switch schools.

Our friendship survived until we reunited in junior high school. It was like we’d never been apart! We shared a lot of the same classes, and a lot of the same friends. We obsessed over Duran Duran and RickSpringfield, and at one point, Jules was convinced I was the biological daughter of Sting. To this day, I have no idea why!

Our sophomore year in high school, Julia persuaded me to go on the school trip overseas: 10 days in England, 10 days in Greece. That summer, we saw Big Ben and the Acropolis together, and came home with enough stories to fill a hundred blog posts. 

Julia was the first person to really encourage me to write down the crazy stories in my head. I guess you could say she was my first craft partner. Between her imagination and mine, we spun outlandishly fantastic tales, and I still have many of them in a box in my attic. Upon graduating, we went to different colleges and our writing became sporadic. Slowly over the years we drifted apart. 

We were virtually out of touch until about five years ago, when, right after my husband and I were in a car accident, Julia and I began emailing. In an effort to catch up, we wrote often, and I could tell she was happy. We talked about getting together; I wanted my boys to meet their crazy Aunt Julia and she wanted me to meet her new husband. But time passed, and we just never made it a priority to meet up.

Then, just before last Christmas, I signed on to Facebook to find that several people had sent me messages about Julia. One contained her obituary. On December 5, 2011, I lost my very first best friend, and by the time I found out, the service had already been held and it was too late for me to say goodbye.

No matter how hard I try, I cannot go back in time. Julia is gone. My sons will never meet her; they will never truly know how incredibly kind and witty and talented she was. They will never get to hear her side of the many crazy stories I have told them.  I miss her every day, and writing this has been unbelievably painful. 

But I am writing this. I am writing this to encourage you to call that friend you love like a sibling, the one you haven’t seen, face to face, in far too long. We are not promised tomorrow; Julia was not old, just 42, and I thought I had thousands of tomorrows to see her. Please don’t waste another day. Take it from me: regret is a stiff price to pay for not making friendship a priority.

Your turn: I need a good laugh. Tell me your funniest story involving you and your first best friend. One lucky storyteller will win a $10 Starbuck's card to use to reconnect with an old friend.


  1. Whoa, yes; that kind of loss is hard at any age, and does teach us to make the most of beloved family and God-given friends each and every day.

  2. One time me and my best friend were on a road trip to Biloxi, Ms and we made a wrong turn. After driving about 3 hours, we both were wondering why we hadn't made it to the coast. And what were all those Louisiana tags doing on the road...and all that Spanish moss...And was that Lake Pontchartrain Bridge? And was our fuel tank sitting on empty just as we start across this 20 mile bridge?
    As you can see, we lived to see more crazy adventures. Think I'll give her a call in a minute.
    Great post, Heidi, and I'm so sorry about your friend.

  3. First of all, I'm so sorry about your friend, Heidi. Truly sorry. I have been blessed with incredible "besties" and I honestly can't imagine losing one of them...

    How to pick from funny first best friend stories...ahhh...there's the time we basically started WWIII at summer camp...the face painting with watercolors...losing my little sister on my best friend's farm...about a 101 hilarious college stories (yes, we were roommates and were still best friends when we graduated!)...

  4. Thank you for sharing Julia with us, Heidi. What a sweet post today.
    I had 2 BFFs -- Karen and Cecilia. And we were quite the trio in middle school. One summer we bought these crazy denim hats and decided to wear them all-the-time. I don't know why. Just had to wear 'em. We thought we were the cutest things with those hats on. We even had our caricatures drawn while we were at Ocean City, Maryland -- and, yeah, we had our hats on. Not necessarily our craziest memory ... just a fun one.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Heidi, I'm sorry for your loss.

    Robin and I were inseparable from 3rd grade, when she shared her crayons with me, the new girl, until 7th grade, when her father was transferred out of state. Once, we decided to walk to TG&Y, the local dime store in the summer. In the days before "No shoes, no service," we wore "barefoot sandals," mere beads on strings. With the soles of our bare feet tough as leather, we had no problem walking anywhere, until this day crossing the TG&Y parking lot. Every step on asphalt scorched from the Florida sun. "Ouch!" We'd quickly, snatch one foot up. "Ouch!" Snatch up the other. We ran and yelped all the way across the hot asphalt. Once we reached the store, we stared back across the lot. There was no way we'd make that journey again. So the only thing we could do was spend our meager allowances on flip flops, instead of candy as we'd planned. These days, I'm a pretty big fan of sandals.

  8. Wow. Prayed for you.

    My first BFF and I always made a Summer Club. Our goal was to raise enough money to rent a room at the Ramada so we could have room service and swim.

    We thought we'd put on a town show, so we took my grandma's old make-up she'd given me, the stuff my mom always had a fit over, and painted my brother's face up like a clown. (He was about two years younger than us.) We pulled him around town in a Radio Flyer wagon, knocking on doors and making him perform for cash.

    I think we raised about $5.00. The disappointment of not getting a room at the Ramada was devastating. So we took pictures of my brother with his clown make-up on to lift our spirits. I still have those!

  9. Heidi, what a beautiful post. I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend. You captured your friendship in such a loving tribute.

    My BFF and I met in 1st grade too, and we're still BFF even though distance keeps us separated. We've weathered storms together and laughed until we cried. Picking a funny story would be like choosing a tulip from the National Garden--there are so many!

    Thanks for reminding me how precious those friendships are and never to take them for granted.

  10. Heidi, such a beautiful post today. I'm trying to swallow down the lump in my throat. I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend. And that you never got to say good-bye.

    I guess I was a pretty staid kid. I had a BFF. We met trick-or-treating with our Girl Scout Troop when I was in fifth grade. We did everything together. We loved books, especially Trixie Belden. Oh, she loved that song, "The Leader of the Pack." We used to put on that record (yes a 33, back before CD players) and we'd sing our hearts out, crying when the motorcycle crash part came. It was fun to dress fifties and pretend we lived in that era. She lives about an hour north. We've shared a lot of life, but it's definitely time to call her again. Thanks for sharing your heart today, Heidi.

  11. Wonderful! I've actually been doing that lately. Trying to find people.

    Thanks for sharing your pain so beautifully :)

  12. So sorry, Heidi.

    I remember one of my first best friends closeting herself in the nursery with a boy from our church...that I liked. She was supposedly trying to broker some kind of deal so that he could be my fourth grade boyfriend. All I know is that they were in there for a really long time. lol

    There was another time when she sent me to ER after accidentally poking a pencil in my eye. With friends like these... ;-)

    Actually, she was great. We had a lot of fun. We sang together a lot. My dad called her Sandi Patty and me Wayne Watson. I'm hoping it was due to who was our favorite artists at the time and not by who favored who in the looks department...

  13. Delores~

    Good friends are a gift. She was precious to me, and I wish I'd made more of an effort to see her in the past few years. It has made me treasure my living friends all the more!!

  14. Pat~

    GREAT story!! Julia and I definitely had some adventures we were lucky to have lived through...stupid things that could've gotten us killed, but didn't. We thought we were indestructible!! I'm glad to hear you are calling your friend! Thank you!!

  15. Oh Melissa, your bestie sounds wonderful! I'm glad you have her! Julia and I had so many adventures!I literally had over 1500 words last night, and had to carve it down to 700. Some of the stuff in England and Greece alone could fill a novel! We had lots of inside jokes as well. I will never look at a package of those pink, chalky "lozenge" candies you find in the bagged candy aisle without thinking of her. Oh, and alternate personalities...wow...so many! As hard as this was to write, it was also very therapeutic to reminisce on all our zany antics!!

    Thanks for sharing!!

  16. Oh, and Melissa...I made SEVERAL trips to the ER as a result of those zany antics! In the circus acrobatic debacle of '76 I thought I could stand on a bike rack holding on to Julia's hands as she stood in front of me, and jump into the air, do a flip, and land on my feet in front of her. Suffice it to say, she ran to get my parents and when they answered the front door, she told them I was dead. =)

  17. Oh my word, Beth...what is it with BFF girls and dressing alike? We definitely embraced the fashion of the 80's. I shudder to remember it! Does anyone really know why teenage girls do anything? I'm so happy to have boys, lol!!

    Julia and I were like sisters in a lot of ways. I am an only child, and although she had two much older brothers, she was a lot like an only child. She always had nuns as babysitters and we gave them The Worst Time...I'm sure those poor nuns thought we were possessed!!

    Thank you for sharing!!

  18. Roxanne~

    How old were you when you made that walk on the sun? I can remember that some of the craziest things we did seemed completely sane at the time! Once, we made a ball, out of mud. We added a new layer of mud to the ball every day, letting it dry in the sun between layers. In the end, we had a softball sized mud ball that was nearly concrete. We thought we had invented some magic new process that was going to make us wealthy beyond imagination. Imagine my surprise to find people had been making bricks that way for THOUSANDS of years!!! But that summer? We thought we were BRILLIANT!

  19. Jessica, thanks for sharing!! What a great story. I think every kid has embarked on a money-making venture of some kind! I think we did lemonade and even tried to sell our signed "artwork" to friends and family. I don't think we made $5 for all of our work!

    Has your brother ever recovered?

  20. Lisa~

    Your comparison of funny stories to flowers in the National Garden is so perfect. Like I told Melissa, I had to cut out much of what I wrote last night because I have so many stories. I think I'm most sad that my sons will never get to meet the other half of the crazy duo in all the stories I've told them. Julia was up for anything, and I can't begin to count the number of times I got her in trouble! Thank you for sharing your BFF!

  21. Jeanne~

    TRIXIE BELDEN!! Oh how I loved that girl! I wanted to BE her. She was my favorite...even more than Nancy Drew. For Julia and I, the music was anything by Duran Duran...we were obsessed. Oh, and I had two of my bedroom walls COMPLETELY plastered with pictures of Rick Springfield.

    So many great memories. I was definitely NOT a staid kid. I was always looking for an adventure. When we were young, I was the instigator; but as we got older, she instigated her fair share of our shenanigans!

    I hope you called your friend today. I've had that same lump in my throat since December. =)

  22. Ginger~

    I think Facebook has been a great tool for finding people and networking. I would've loved to find out about my friend a different way, but without Facebook, I may not have found out for years. Who knows? I know of at least one good friend of hers that found out about her passing today, when they read this blog via a link on my Facebook page.

    I'm so glad to hear that you are already making the effort to find people from your past. Our time on this Earth grows shorter and shorter every day. Thank you for your encouragement.

  23. Jenness~

    I think one of the reasons I clicked with you in Florida is because you remind me so much of Julia. So smart and witty and fun.

    Like I said above, I made several trips to the ER because of situations Julia and I got ourselves into. One day, just before we moved, someone dared me I couldn't do a certain flip (called a Penny Drop) off the lowest bar at lunch recess. I totally knew I could, because I was so short. Julia knew it too, and encouraged me to take the dare. So I did it.

    The next thing I knew, I was sitting at my desk (off in the corner, because I talked too much...I know, BIG surprise!!) staring at some standardized test. Apparently, I didn't master the landing on the Penny Drop, and the drop on my head left me with amnesia. I ended up at the ER having my head examined. Again. I still remember Julia saying she didn't understand how the teachers didn't know there was something wrong with me when I went for 2 hours without speaking a word.

    And between you and me? I liked Wayne Watson soooooooooooo much more than Sandy Patty!! ;)

  24. P.S. For clarification on the Perfumer story: I had received several little girl perfume sets for my birthday. It must've been The Gift for little girls in the 70's. So Julia and I decided to mix EVERY single bottle of perfume in a couple of my mother's canning jars. The concoction was milky white and it stunk. For a long, long time. Did I get in trouble? I think I probably did. =)

  25. Beautiful post. Thank you for reaching out through your own pain to remind us of the importance of each day. God help us to use our time wisely and to stay close to those we love.Be comforted in the fact that you re-connected with Julia online and you knew she was happy.

  26. Thank you so much for the encouragement, Cynthia! I hadn't emailed with her in quite awhile; I'm not even sure how she died! I am trying to find her family to reach out to them. I am comforted in knowing she was happy. I have struggled with why God didn't give me that little nudge that something was wrong. I am trying not to ask "Why?" It's so hard not to question God sometimes, isn't it? My prayer of late has been that He would help me to be less self-centered and more aware of the people I love. Thank you again for your comforting words. =)

  27. I'm so sorry that you had to find out about Julia that way; you were a wonderful friend to her, and she had a smile a mile wide when she talked about growing up with you. With everything that happened, I was remiss in contacting her friends and I am very sorry for that.
    She was a wonderful wife, and I feel truly blessed that we had such a great 9 1/2 years together. She was the funniest, warmest, and most loving person that I ever met, and I was proud to be her husband.
    Heidi, I'm sorry we did not have a chance to meet when she was still here with us. If you can let me know how to contact you at "richardrader at yahoo dot com", I'd love to talk to you.
    I'm just so sorry.