“Do you remember that President’s Cup ballmark you sent me?
I smile as I swipe the alert to read the rest of Ben’s text. Twenty minutes later, after a flurry of flying words, I’m astonished to see that it’s past my bedtime. “Goodnight! We seriously have to FaceTime soon!” I force myself to set down my phone and roll over, curling up in a content haze of almost thirteen years of sweet memories.
My first season in the OSU Marching Band, I got to march next to this goofy, thoughtful, insightful third-year member. He taught me about band traditions, helped me improve my marching, and showed me how to chase my dreams. Hours on the practice field and in the band room turned into hours of talking on the phone, chatting online, and giggling in restaurants. Because of him, I won the spot awarded to the best marcher in our row. Because of him, I was inspired to switch to a major I loved. Because of him, I am a more reflective, more open-minded, braver person.
And when I look back at my years in college, I play a slideshow of snapshots of him: Ben playfully hitting me with his rolled-up charts, saying, “Silly rookie!” Ben teasing me for excitedly wearing my band letter jacket on a too-warm fall day. Ben bragging about his flashes as we watched gameday videos. Ben hugging me as tears spilled down my face after older band members from another row yelled at me.
Countless drills on the band field as our shadows grew long, striving for perfection. Yelling towards the hospital buildings until our voices echoed back, becoming stronger and braver. Our hearts swelling together at our shared love of the Navy Hymn. Perching on a table beside the piano, in awe of the beautiful music floating from his fingers. Keeping him company at work. Cookouts, dinners, and drives. Challenging philosophical discussions, silly jokes, and caring words of encouragement. Fights and frustration resolved into hugs and smiles.
As we got older and busier, the snapshots got less frequent but just as precious. Posing for goofy pictures at Ryan’s surprise birthday party. Making up a funny song at my birthday about my weird neighbor, who was mowing his grass at 11:00 at night. Email epistles back and forth, especially while I was living in Spain. Discussing how to be an effective squad leader, and later, how to be the best teachers we can be.
When Ben got a teaching job in Virgina, my face smiled for him but my heart shrank. What about the hugs and giggles? The long, thought-provoking discussions? Grilled cheese lunches and lasagna dinners? Marching to impress the guy I most looked up to in the world? His steady but gentle pushes to be better while supporting me as I got there?
Luckily, the invisible rope that ties best friends together can stretch across states without breaking, and it’s easier than ever to stay in touch. We send each other articles and recommend books we know the other would enjoy. We text, Facetime, and talk on the phone, sharing our latest travel adventures, weekend activities, and our teaching joys and challenges. Of course, it's too easy to let life get in the way of communicating as often as we should, but whether it's been days, weeks or months, we pick right up as if we were never apart.
Most people grow up with their brothers. I had to wait until college to meet mine, but I love him just the same.
* I wrote this post as my beginner students were writing about friendship in relation to Chopsticks for the Global Read Aloud. Please feel free to check out their posts and tweet them some comments!