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Remembering Teresa

My friend Teresa died. She had Stage 4 breast cancer. I saw her at my 20-year high school reunion in 2004; she had just completed her treatment and was preparing for reconstruction surgery. When she got home from the reunion, her doctors found that her cancer had returned, in her bone marrow, and she was gone 18 months later. She left a husband and two young children.

Teresa and I were very good friends in junior high. She played the flute and I played clarinet in the junior high band. We lived within bike-riding distance of each other in Pecan Park and rode the same bus. Teresa had white-blonde hair, just like all the women in her family; she was loud; she had an infectious laugh; and she was boy-crazy. BOY. CRAZY. She was so much fun.

In seventh? or eighth grade? she had a slumber party for her birthday. All the usual suspects from band were there - the group of girls she would remain best friends with throughout high school.

Deana Williams, Tammy Riser, Sara Smith, Diane Reed. Diane, she's gone now, too. She & her boyfriend went missing from a hiking trip out west and have never been seen again. Someone at the reunion said her story was once on "Unsolved Mysteries."

We danced to "The Time Warp" and tried on blue and green and purple mascaras and shared stories of our first kisses. I lied. I'd not been kissed yet in seventh grade, but whatever Sara said I just emphatically exclaimed, "Me too!" as though I had also had my first kiss while on vacation in Washington DC the previous summer.

I had my first cigarette in Teresa's bathroom that night with Dee Daniels. Teresa nailed me on it at school Monday morning. I couldn't believe she found out! As an adult, I can't believe for a second that I thought we could smoke inside someone's house and NOT be caught. Teresa said her mom found ashes in the bathroom. I was horrified. As a good little Mormon girl, freshly graduated from Primary, I was terrified that someone KNEW I'd smoked a cigarette. Nevermind the sinning and breaking the Word of Wisdom part. I was just mortified that people would FIND OUT.

The next morning Mrs. Johnson made us pancakes and we all put on full faces of make-up before going home. I remember Tammy used a safety pin to separate her lashes from her clumpy dial-a-lash mascara.

One Sunday afternoon in seventh grade, I was over at Teresa's house. My mom let me stay there playing instead of coming home and going to Sacrament Meeting with my family. God punished me for that.

I was trying to ride Teresa's bike (which was too big for me, and only had handbrakes, which I was unaccustomed to) and she was trying to ride mind - which was too small for her and her knees practically bumped the handlebars. There was a lot of sand in the street by her house. I don't know if it was because new houses were still being constructed in her area of Pecan Park, or if there was just always a lot of sand around on the coast. But she got my bike stuck in the sand right in front of me and I couldn't stop her bike quickly enough and the front wheel of the bike I was on slammed into the back wheel of the bike she was on. And my feet couldn't reach the ground from the seat of her bike, so I fell. Onto the bar. And felt an extreme pain the likes of which would not be replicated until childbirth.

Teresa's mom drove me home....and dropped me off. And no one was home. My whole family was sitting reverently in Sacrament Meeting where I should have been and no harm would have befallen me. And here I was, bleeding profusely from my vaginal region and this woman just dropped me off and left me there alone! Which seems kind of weird now. I looked up the church number and called my mom and she rushed home and took me to the hospital where I had to spend the night to determine whether or not I needed stitches down there (I did not).

My mom tried to make me feel better by telling me about when she was my age and she left the skating rink and fell and hit her newly blossoming boob on the corner of the concrete and nearly passed out from the pain. I was just afraid I wouldn't be able to have babies anymore.

The nurse on my floor asked me where I went to school and when I told her, she said, "Oh yeah, we had another girl from your school in here for the same thing a couple weeks ago. Suzanne Gautier, do you know her?" Which of course I knew her. It was a small school AND she was a cheerleader and that probably broke all sorts of federal privacy laws for her to tell me that or I don't know - maybe our medical records weren't private back in pre-HIPPA days.

Anyway, I was out of school for a week but Teresa was kind enough not to tell people what was really wrong with me since you can image how mortified a seventh grade girl would be for her classmates to know that she was in a bike wreck and broke her girly parts.

And thus ends my walk down Teresa Johnson Memory Lane. Good night, angel.