43: Tooty and Me

43: Tooty and Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

Tooty and Me

A good friend is a connection to life — a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.

~Lois Wyse

Her name is Pat. I call her Tooty. We met when I was a first-year teacher at a small, private school. Early in the year, I felt overwhelmed and was beginning to think I had made the worst decision of my life. Tooty, a veteran English teacher, convinced me that I could handle the pressure and be successful at my job.

We realized quickly that we had a lot in common. We had gotten married in the same year, and we both loved traveling, reading and going out to eat. Our shared sense of humor was similar, often childish, sometimes bordering on sick.

We spent all of our free time at school together. We ate lunch together, sat beside one another in faculty meetings and assemblies, and graded papers together. Tooty and I were as bad as the students we made fun of, completely inseparable and unable to walk to the restroom without the other.

Eventually, our friendship began to bloom outside of school. We went to restaurants, visited each other’s homes and celebrated special occasions. And in June of that year, Tooty called me with an exciting invite.

“Do you want to go to Myrtle Beach for a week?” she asked.

“I’d love to. But you know I can’t afford it right now.”

She did know. Our miniscule salaries were another commonality.

“You only need money for food,” she continued. “My friends Kay and Bucky own a timeshare, and they have an extra room. We’d have to share it but they’re not charging us.”

Hours later, I agreed to go. Tooty drove and we spent the week talking, eating, drinking and laughing. One night, we decided to go out by ourselves. Our condo mates wanted a relaxing evening at home.

“Do you have your key?” Tooty asked, as we hopped in the elevator.

“Yes. I have it. You ask me that every time we leave. It’s in my wallet.”

A few hours and several cocktails later we were outside the condo door again. I fumbled through my purse for the key, but I couldn’t find it. I dumped all the contents of my purse onto the ground and started searching.

“You don’t have it, do you? I thought you said it was in your wallet.”

“It is in my wallet,” I answered. “But my wallet is in my beach bag. And my beach bag is in the condo.”

We had no choice but to wake up our friends. At two o’clock in the morning, they were less than pleased when they heard our fists pounding on the door. But they couldn’t control their laughter when they opened the door and saw us.

There we were sitting cross-legged on the ground, with Krispy Kreme hats perched on top of our heads, glazed sugar crystals on our mouths, and our purses upside down on the sidewalk.

We thanked our friends and crawled (literally) in the door and into our beds. We woke the next morning bloodshot and achy. Then, like real soldiers, we trudged back to the beach.

In the heat of the South Carolina sun, Tooty and I talked about the night before, our jobs and our friendship. I told her that I was really glad we had met, and that I appreciated having her in my life. I babbled on for a while about career goals, family plans and traveling dreams.

“This has been so much fun, Tooty. We should take a cross-country road trip together when I retire,” I said.

“Melissa!” Tooty laughed. “I’ll be almost ninety when you retire!”

I hadn’t thought about that. Sure, I knew she was older. But I had never really thought about it. After all, Tooty doesn’t look (or act) her age, and she certainly doesn’t dwell on it. If anything, I’m the one who acts older. I worry constantly, complain about aches and pains, and refuse to go out on a “school” night. And I’m the one with the failing memory. I needed Tooty to help me remember my key.

Tooty and I are teaching at different schools this year. We talk on the phone regularly, and we meet occasionally for Tuesday night tacos. But it’s not like it used to be. I consider her one of my closest friends, and I miss seeing her on a daily basis. Chronologically, we are separated by twenty-three years, but spiritually we’re the same age.

And though our relationship is great, it is not without the occasional argument. Every now and then (when I do something stupid), Tooty likes to tell me, “I could be your mother you know. I’m old enough.”

“You could be. But you’re not,” I remind her.

I’ve got one mother. I do not need another one. But I do need my friend. I need Tooty.

~Melissa Face

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