From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

The Gift of Baby Drowsy

My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.

Henry Ford

Lauri and I have been friends since we were four years old. “I was four and a half,” I can hear her correcting me, never one to let me forget that she was six months older. When we learned we were related (her grandmother and my great-grandmother were sisters), it only served to solidify our bond as “cousins forever.”

Our relationship, however, got off to a somewhat rocky start over an incident involving a permanent marker and my beloved Baby Drowsy doll. I cried for days after Lauri’s attempt to do a “makeover” on Drowsy. My older sister tried removing the ink with various household solvents, which, unfortunately, ended up removing some of Drowsy’s trademark painted, sleepy eyes, leaving her with somewhat of a permanent wink. But somehow, our friendship managed to survive that ordeal and much, much more.

Of the two of us, Lauri was the rebel—the friend who could turn any playdate into an adventure (or a stint on house arrest if we played our cards right). Lauri was the first girl in our class to come to school wearing makeup. She thought the pale green eye shadow she borrowed from her sister perfectly matched with the green plaid of our hideous school uniforms. Unfortunately, Sister Maria, the principal at our Catholic grade school, didn’t agree. In hindsight (and probably because she now has daughters of her own), Lauri will concede that third grade might have been a little early to start wearing makeup.

I give Lauri the credit for all the times we tested the limits and earned the consequences that ensued. Like the time she got us kicked out of Brownies. Okay, we weren’t literally kicked out, but when the leader asked our moms not to send us back the following year, we took that as a strong hint. I really don’t understand why. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Lauri fell into the creek when we were on litter pickup, and I laughed till I nearly wet my pants. Or perhaps it was the time when we visited that dairy farm. As I recall, it was Lauri who touched off a chain of events that eventually left one Brownie skidding knees first into a pile of cow manure. Looking back, I suppose my belly laughs over that event could have been construed as “encouraging her misbehavior,” but I challenge anyone to be in Lauri’s presence and not end up roaring with laughter—she was just plain fun to be around. I could tell instantly when she would get that sparkle in her eyes and a smile would start to creep across her face that she had some wonderfully mischievous idea that would likely land us in trouble, but the adventure would certainly be worth any punishment that followed.

All too soon though, our carefree, mischievous childhood days faded away, as the road to adulthood loomed ahead. Through all the obstacles and challenging times I have faced, Lauri has been the one loyal fixture in my life. Despite going to different high schools, we were always there for each other through every imaginable teenage tragedy. From bad perms to broken hearts, I always knew Lauri was just a phone call away—always there to listen and to give advice when sought, but never to judge. We celebrated every triumph and consoled every heartbreak with a scoop of praline pecan ice cream from Baskin-Robbins or a slice of mushroom pizza.

When life dealt me heartache, Lauri was there. The day I buried my baby girl, three weeks after her premature birth, Lauri held my hand and wiped my tears, feeling the loss as much as I did.

Last year, when her father passed away after a long bout with cancer, even though I now lived nine hundred miles away, I knew I had to be there for Lauri. After all, I think I spent more time at her house growing up than I did at my own. Her parents were like surrogate parents to me. So I went to the funeral with the intention of being strong and supportive for my friend, like she was for me in my time of sorrow, but it was Lauri who put her arm around me as I sobbed over her father’s casket, giving me a little more of her endless strength. But that’s my friend, always putting others first.

It was during this trip back home that Lauri gave me a very special present. “For some reason, when I saw this, I thought of you,” she laughed. I could almost see that sparkle of youth coming back into her eyes, as that smile I remembered so well crept across her face when she handed me the package. “I’ve been meaning to mail it to you, but . . .” her words trailed off as I opened the box. I could not believe my eyes. Lying inside was a brand-new Baby Drowsy doll. I gazed lovingly at her pink and white polka-dotted outfit, my hand gently caressing that silky, blonde hair, and instantly I was swept back to 1975. “Where . . . where, did you ever . . . ?” I stammered quietly, my now teary eyes still fixated on the cherub-faced doll.

“Mattel is marketing them as retro dolls. Doesn’t that make you feel old?” she quipped, instantly turning my tears to laughter.

“Yes, that does make me feel old,” I retorted, wiping my cheek. “But I can only imagine how you must feel, being six months older than me!” I added, finally seizing the opportunity to exploit being younger after all these years. We both shared a good laugh during a difficult time, but like I said, that’s how it is with my best friend—she always makes you laugh.

Life would not be complete without someone like Lauri there to live it with you. That someone who, when you pick up the phone and call her, whether it’s been a week or six months, you pick up right where you left off—just as if you had spoken an hour before. Her friendship has truly been a gift to me—much more precious than the Baby Drowsy doll she gave me—and one I’ll always treasure.

Jodi L. Severson

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