I’m sure many of you are familiar with the book/movie “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”. It’s about four best girlfriends who are heading off in different directions and make one last pact to stay connected. They pass around a pair of second-hand jeans that miraculously fit each one of their frames. Even more miraculous was how these jeans arrived at a time when they were each at a moment of crisis and needed to feel their connection with their friends.
I recently bought a pair of pale green jeans and I was taken back to another time in my life. Many years ago, I owned a similar pair of pale green jeans. They were somewhere between a mint and a lime green. Oh, how I loved those jeans. Whenever I put them on I felt sexy, sassy, feisty, and empowered! And, you have to understand that I wasn’t a dainty little thing. I think those green jeans were a size 16!! They might even have been a size 18. But, whatever the size, when I was wearing those green jeans and my Cherokee brand platform shoes, I was woman…hear me roar!!
Unfortunately, there reached a time when I outgrew those pants. But, rather than throw them away, I passed them on to best friend, Judy Jarred Comford. Judy was another “plus sized” woman. It didn’t take long before she also discovered the power of those pants. In fact, whenever Judy was feeling down, her brother, Jeff, would say, “Judes, put on your green jeans and let’s go out.”
Over the years, as our size fluctuated, Judy and I passed those jeans back and forth…and back and forth. We must have each had them in our possession at least four or five times. Sadly, there reached a point where we realized our favorite pants were too worn and no longer in style. It was time to say goodbye to the green jeans.
The pants were something that we shared and they reflected the ebb and flow of our friendship. Judy and I became close friends during our senior year of high school. We discovered that we were kindred spirits when we found that we had much in common. Both of us came from households headed by an abusive father. That wasn’t something that one could share very openly as most people just didn’t understand or relate to it.
But, there were also many positive things that drew us together. We both loved to sing and were avid readers. Over the years, it was common for us to pass books on to each other. I still have copies of books which have Judy’s name written in the flyleaf. Judy got me hooked on soap operas…first, with “Dark Shadows” and then, “General Hospital” and “One Life to Life”. We would stay awake all night as she filled me in on the back-story of each soap so I could immediately start watching with a clear understanding of what was going on and who was doing what to and with whom.
Judy was the one I asked to be the godmother of my daughter. It was the best way I could show her how much she meant to me.
Judy is also the one who got me though the devastation of my divorce from my first husband. We separated from our husbands within a month of each other. Divorce is a horrendous experience and it can be immobilizing. It is often described as being similar to experiencing a death. And, that is so true. It is the death of a relationship, as well as dreams for the future.
Judy and I both got through those dark days because of the support of each other. When one of us was down, the other was there to support and encourage her. When one was feeling unlovable and unattractive, the other would be there to tell her what pond scum we had been married to. I often describe my first husband this way…”I used to worship the ground he slithered on.” It may not have been the truth, but it helped get through those bad periods if we could laugh. And, laugh we did.
During those first months when my daughter would go for visitation with her dad, I would spend the night with Judy at her apartment. I was afraid of the dark and frightened to spend the night alone. So, we hung out together and had some great, crazy times.
Because I married so young, I never went to bars or clubs dancing…not ever! But, Judy and I were now ‘single ladies’ and had some fun times together. In those days, there was actually a ‘Talent Show’ circuit in S. California and Judy was a very talented country singer. There was a different talent show at a different country bar every night of the week. There were actually a stable of regulars that performed and that we got to know. I was Judy’s biggest fan (besides her mother who often joined us.)
I remember that the craziest thing we ever did was to drive to San Francisco over one Labor Day weekend. This trip is what cemented our “best friends forever” status. We left after work on Friday and returned home in the wee hours on Monday morning. We had almost no money but we had the absolute best time of our lives.
One of our goals was to go to the “Top of the Mark”…a restaurant on the top floor of the Mark Hopkins hotel. We had heard that the view of San Francisco was spectacular. We couldn’t afford dinner but we figured a drink at the bar would be as good. After walking for what seemed like forever in high heels, we finally flagged down a cab to take us the rest of the way. The fare came to exactly $1.37. I gave the cab driver two dollars and told him to keep the change. That led to Judy exclaiming loudly, “Whoa…big spender!” which caused even the cabbie to crack up. From then on, whenever the other would splurge on something outrageous, we could say, “Whoa…big spender.” And, as for the view at “The Top of the Mark”…it was a typical foggy, San Francisco evening and we couldn’t see a thing. But, it really didn’t matter because we had created a memory which would last forever.
Judy and I had other key phrases which meant so much more than what we said. For example, if one of us tried on something that wasn’t particularly flattering, the other would say, “I’m sure you’ll be very happy with it.” That translated into, “That makes you look fat…put it back.” We could even communicate with just a look.
Judy was the first one (after my daughter) that we told when Bob and I got engaged. And she stood up for me when we got married. A few years later, I was thrilled to do the same for her. I sobbed throughout her entire wedding ceremony…not because I was sad…but because I was so happy she had finally found her perfect life partner.
We spoke the same language and considered ourselves ‘sisters’. We were both the only girls in our family so we ‘chose’ each other to be our sister. And like sisters, we often fought. I don’t think there was anyone who could hurt me as deeply as Judy and I know I wounded her on many occasions as well. Sometimes, we wouldn’t speak to each other for months. But, it never really mattered. Even when we weren’t speaking, I knew that she would be there for me if I needed her and I know she knew that about me as well. There was really no one who knew my history better than Judy.
Judy passed away almost 7 years ago at the age of 56. She had suffered many years from several debilitating and disabling health conditions. One of those conditions by itself would not have been fatal, but because of the magnitude of them combined, her poor body was just too worn out. I was the one who told her that she was dying and that she had to make some decisions. She died 5 days later.
I’ve often wondered if she thought I was being unkind because of my calm demeanor in delivering the news. She was really surprised by my words because she always thought she would get better. My heart was breaking inside, but I knew her husband couldn’t bring himself to tell her. And, she hadn’t heard what the doctor’s had been telling her. I wanted her to be in control of what happened. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And, even though I knew her death was imminent, I was completely devastated when it happened. I had thought we had more time.
Don’t we always think we will have more time?
Fast forward to a week ago when I bought a new pair of green jeans. I’m sad that I won’t be able to pass them on to Judy. But, they are a size 12!! I’ve maintained this size for almost a year now and it’s my goal to stay this way. So, instead of outgrowing these jeans, each time I wear them, I will remember what I shared with a remarkable, one-of-a-kind friend.
Me, in my size 12 green jeans!