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A Teen's View

My True Friend

Olivia Sielaff

"The best kind of friend is the one you could sit on a porch swing with,
never saying a word, and walk away feeling like that was the
best conversation you've ever had."
         ~ Author unknown

(3/11) Have you ever had a true friend? One who you could talk to about anything? One you could spend hours with and not get bored? One who doesnít care how silly you act around them? I think itís so important for everyone to have at least one true friend who you can always rely on to be honest and there for you. Luckily, I have a true friend who has blessed my life more than I could have asked for. We began just as neighbors and are now growing closer as true friends everyday.

This first time I met Carolyn Shields was ten years ago. I just moved away from all of my other friends and was living in an old house that smelled musty. Carolyn and her older sister Kathy and their cousin were playing in their backyard when I walked across the street to meet them. We were all introduced to each other, and I couldíve sworn that Kathy and her cousin were sisters, because Carolyn didnít look much like her older sister. We played for a little while that first day, but I never thought our friendship would grow so quickly.

I think it was within the next day or so that I went over to my new neighborís house again to play. I was just glad to know someone my age who I could play with besides my little brother. That second time I went to her house, Carolyn and Kathy tricked me. She and her sister switched their names on me; of course, they thought it was hilarious. Iím not good at remembering names the first time anyway, so I thought they were being serious. It was only when I played with them another time they confessed their true identities. I wasnít too impressed with them because of that, but I decided to give them another chance.

During the first few months and years of our friendship, Carolyn and I played like any other eight and nine year olds would. I quickly began to trust Carolyn (even after the name changing incident), and for a while she was the only friend I had at my new home in Emmitsburg. We spent many days at the ballpark in town eating snow cones and bubblegum, at St. Anthonyís church yard sales rummaging for dress-up clothes, making up dance routines to our favorites songs, on the roof of Carolynís house spying on our little brothers, and just sitting around on lazy days with nothing to do.

Almost everyday after school I would run across the street and knock on Carolynís door to see if we could play. She always said ĎYesí and we would play for hours in her backyard or in her room. Some of my favorite memories of those times were spent in ĎThe Woodsí of Carolynís backyard. We would go exploring in this enchanted forest as Carolyn pretended to be Robin Hood and I, Maid Marian. For some reason I was always the one tied to a tree or in need of rescue while Carolyn got to save the day. Many times we tried and failed to build forts in the woods. Twice actually we made very stable forts, but our little brothers ended up destroying them. Sometimes Carolyn and I would be in the woods for hours just walking around, talking about anything, making up fairytales, or having serious discussions about our aspirations.

As Carolyn and I grew closer together, I was able to get to know her family Ė all thirty-some immediate cousins and numerous aunts and uncles. When the Shields have a family gathering, they always invite my family and me. After attending a few of their get-togethers, I noticed that Carolynís cousins would call her mom Aunt Marn (a quick way of saying Mary-Anne). For the longest time I wanted to call Carolynís mom ĎAunt Marní, too. But I decided to just stick with ĎMrs. Shieldsí so as not to overstep my boundaries, even though Carolyn says Iím practically one of her cousins.

Perhaps one of the most terrifying moments of my life, which turned out to be one of our favorite memories, was spent with Carolyn. We were paddling upstream in her grandparentsí canoe pretending we were Luis and Clarke looking for Indians. All of a sudden Carolyn let out a scream and said there was a mouse in our canoe! Indeed there was a poor little mouse in the canoe. There was much screaming on our part and much scurrying around the boat on the mouseís part. Both Carolyn and I had our feet up on the sides of the canoe while we tried to paddle in this contorted way. It was quite a sight to see us two girls haphazardly paddling towards the bank of the stream while screaming with fright. Eventually we reached the bank and ran away screaming and laughing at the same time. Carolyn and I look back on that incident with a smile and will always refer to it as "the mouse in the boat."

Amongst all of the excitement and adventures we had, there are many times Carolyn and I just quietly enjoy each otherís company. Iíve always liked this about Carolyn. She and I can just be together and not say much, yet we still understand each other. Weíve never been the type to have really girly talks or stay up very late during sleepovers. But every time I walk back across the street to my house, I have a smile on my face and feel like Iíve spent my time well growing in friendship with Carolyn (even if we only watched TV together).

From the time we first knew each other, we had all sorts of adventures. Little did I know that Carolyn and I would have many more opportunities to grow closer together as we became teenagers.

"The most beautiful discovery true friends make
is that they can grow separately without growing apart."
~ Elisabeth Foley

Yet again Iíve forgotten when Carolyn Shieldsí birthday is. For some reason I always think itís in April. Every year, I have the same conviction, and every year Carolyn so graciously reminds me a week or two before her actual birthday that itís in March. By the time you read this article, her birthday will have passed, but while Iím writing this, I only have one week to think of something good to give her.

How is it that I could forget my best friendís birthday every year? Honestly, I donít know. Itís probably because I donít have the best of memories when it comes to memorizing dates and names, but thatís no excuse for my best friend whoís birthday Iíve celebrated for the past eleven years. If remembering certain facts about people were the way to gauge someoneís level of friendship, I would fail as a friend. Thankfully, that is not the case. Although I have forgotten many things about Carolyn, things sheís told me, or things weíve done, Carolyn is always there to remind me of the smallest details or slightest incidents that happened between us Ė some of which I purposefully try to put out of my mind.

Anyhow, there are certain times that would be hard for me to forget, especially these past few years Carolyn and I have grown into young adults. Carolyn will remember when I mention that one night a few years ago I slept over at her house and said half jokingly, "Weíre growing up so fast!" while both of us were cuddled with our stuffed animals. We both laughed then, but it really is true (or so I think Ė Carolyn still laughs at that). It only seems like yesterday when we were little tween nerds playing chess all the time or making a time capsule, which we never finished. And now, reality is setting in for both of us. We have to make big decisions for our future, graduate from college, and get used to being "adults." Before we know it, weíll have finished college, landed jobs, and have families, and then weíll really say, "Why did we grow up so quickly?"

But Iím getting ahead of myself. I wouldnít have gotten to where I am as a young adult today, if it werenít for my friendship with Carolyn throughout our highschool years. Although we went to different schools, we shared the same ups and downs every teenager goes through. Complaining to each other about our stupid tests, questioning the importance of certain school projects (Was global warming really affecting the temperatures on Mt. Kilimanjaro?), and crying over our boatload of homework assignments were common ways we shared our misery. But we also shared many joys, like going to school dances, making Honors, and laughing over the embarrassing things that happened to us during school.

As Carolyn and I grew more and more busy with highschool, we couldnít spend everyday together like we used to. Sometimes we wouldnít see each other for an entire week, even though we live right across the street from each other. The longest weíve gone without seeing each other though was for five or six weeks when Carolyn and her family went out West for a summer vacation. And we didnít have Facebook or Skype then. Those were a few of the most uneventful weeks in my life. I think Carolyn would agree with me that as we began to hang out with each other less and less, I feared that our friendship would loosen. Itís hard to keep a close friendship with someone if you donít get to talk often, and then when you do see that person you forget what you wanted to say. At any rate, Carolyn and I were soon used to our hectic schedules and found ways to slip in a few hours with each other.

Although we donít do many of the things we used to do as kids, like exploring in the woods, playing dress-up, or sending secret coded messages, Iím all right with that. Weíve matured together and so have our interests Ė yes, driving around the Gettysburg battlefields at night scaring our pants off is mature. Since Carolyn is attending the Mount now, we like to have lunch together in the cafeteria, go to Mass, or she even letís me go to some of the events at the Mount. Plus, sheís introduced me to some of her college friends. And now that I can drive (ahem, Carolyn still needs to work on her license), weíre able to go places further than our backyards to have some adventures!

There was one event that has really made me think about our friendship over the years. It was Carolynís transition from highschool to college. I was so lucky to have been at Carolynís highschool graduation ceremony. When she walked across the stage to receive her diploma, it made me think of all the good and bad times we shared up until where Carolyn was that day. I gave her a little purple flower and a hug, and couldnít believe how fast we had grown up. We had always said, "When we get to collegeÖ" as if it were some far away place where mature people went, and now weíre here. Carolyn is in college and Iím on my way.

However, Iíve realized that there will be so many more opportunities to build our friendship. It wonít end after college. But even though some of our best memories will be in Emmitsburg, we can create so many more wherever we are. Even though Iíll be the one to leave her this Fall, and Carolyn will be moving into a new house, and weíll go our separate ways, I know that our friendship will stay right where it is. And even though I will still forget Carolynís birthday every year, I will never forget all that weíve done together and how much Carolyn is a part of my life.

Read other articles by Olivia Sielaff