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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

Friendship

Carolyn Shields

(March, 2011) We were twelve years old, coated in a sheet of snow, in the woods behind my house, the woods we called Sherwood. We were about fifty feet from one of our forts, near the slanted trees, where we played the torture scene from Robin Hood. The meadow was a little walk off, where we would pretend to be hobbits. Home was always in view. We shook each other's hand, our glasses askew and snowflakes falling around us, as we promised that in the future we would travel the world together.

How quickly the future is coming.

But before I talk about the future, let me go back to when Olivia Sielaff, my best friend, started to make my life. As Olivia mentioned in her article on the opposite page it was a funny little story. She was a tiny girl, loved to read books bigger than she was, never saw Rugrats, ate healthy food, and took her shoes off when she entered a house. And somehow, despite my being a huge tomboy who read romance novels targeted at a young adult audience and ate chocolate cake for breakfast, we became the best of friends.

We concocted crazy plans to get us through those long summer days. We would lie on my roof, thinking of adventures and eating cookies that were so big they were uncooked inside. (She still jokes about my cooking). We would dream of ways to pass the time. One summer we spent most of our time dressed up as pirates and played on my family's "ship" (or rather, a sad little boat my dad lost money on called the Almost, which almost worked). Another summer we spent weeks planning out a movie, thinking of locations and angles to shoot, but in the end we only recorded three solid minutes.

However, we always had the most fun under the branches of Sherwood. Like little nerds, I one day said, "Wouldn't it be awesome if we had capes to play in?" and about one month later, I came home from school to a gift-wrapped box. Olivia made one for me and one to match. I was the one with the dreams; Olivia was the one who made them happen. Those were the days when we could run barefoot as hobbits or princesses or merrymen and not be judged by anyone but my older sister, who I think will always view us as dweebs with glasses and Converse.

And then we became teenagers. Every spring we had to run across the road, giddy to see the other dressed up for her prom. Our adventures ended for a time until I had another dream last summer. High fashion in tropical or desert landscapes. We didn't have any tropical forest but we did have Sherwood. So we got dressed up in our old prom dresses, lugged a desk, piano bench, and easles. We even nailed picture frames to the trees and modeled.

But time is pressing in. It was so evident this year as I spent more and more time at the Mount, and Olivia sat behind her computer, applying for scholarships and working on admittance essays for colleges. I've taken her to the Mount for lunch a few times to meet friends, and I thought, "This is how it could be for the next four years." So of course I can get myself upset thinking that she isn't coming to the Mount, that we won't have the same circle of friends but I understand and respect her feelings. Like all of my other friends, she wants to see what's outside of Emmitsburg. I'm still carefully considering this, but I may see what is outside of my hometown next fall if I study in Ireland.

Still, it's hard to believe that in a few months time, that serene, bespectacled girl who I had to explain what a "that's what she said joke" was won't be across the street. She won't walk her dog in the rain and call me off when I catcall, even when I'm hiding behind our curtains. She will no longer walk through our door and neatly take off her shoes and place them in her designated corner. She won't be there. The thing is, we will no longer be neighbors by the end of summer. Not only will we be hundreds of miles apart next year, but summer will no longer make us neighbors again. Olivia is 90% of the reason why I don't want to move three miles down the road.

She's so sweet that she probably would have let me start off this article the wayI originally wanted to, which was to sound like she was looking for a boyfriend ('There's a girl I know who loves long walks on the beach, has gorgeous eyes...'). And, of course, she will probably one-up me by writing two articles about our friendship.

I won't forget having to tell her that Dad was leaving for Iraq. I won't forget our deep, theological conversations, when our voices rose even though we agreed on every issue. I won't forget how we knelt together at the Mount 2000 retreat, and how our eyes filled with tears as the monstrance holding our Lord passed in front of us. I won't forget the first time she wore skinny jeans, or when she told me a boy asked her to the prom. But most of all, I'll never forget those endless summer hours in our little woodsy haven, where we could run around in capes and make pinky promises concerning a future that was a lot closer than we thought.

We didn't know that as we twirled and laughed in our prom dresses in the slanting rays of light that that would be our last adventure in Sherwood. We went on laughing, unaware that the future was already closing in.

By fall, we will be 3,466 miles apart. One of us will be making her way to Ohio and through Godís grace, the other to Ireland. We will be going our own ways at last. I know one day she'll fall in love, and I have permission to tell him how she wants to be proposed to. I'll watch her walk up the aisle and start a family. We will grow old together and laugh about the mischief we got into, about the times we've shared. About the fleeting summer days when we dreamed of what was to come.

Olivia, I'm so honored to be your friend.

Read other articles by Caroline Shields