As a teenager I may have spent more time outside of classrooms than in, smoking on the sidewalk, scrounging up enough money for a coffee and to feed the jukebox in the diner across the street, and cajoling my peers to accompany me. I was very, very good at it. Many evenings I ended up hanging out at Patti or Helen's house, rather than staying home, mooching dinner before heading to their bedroom where we listened, sprawled out happily together to Carole King’s “Tapestry” or Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”, Al Green, The Doobie Brothers, The Eagles … music tapped into our youthful longings, and especially our desire to dance, which we did a lot. In fact, I met my husband when I asked him to dance in a discotheque where, with Patti and Helen and the help of some fake ID I’d procured, I had been bravely drinking Singapore slings and batting my false eyelashes in an effort to turn his head my way. He declined my offer.
I was also pretty adept at devising lots of other brazenly daring but fairly stupid ideas, and Susi was more often than not my loyal partner in crime. We once convinced some sleepover guests that we should sneak out of the house in the wee small hours of the morning to go for a little walk along St. Clair Avenue – in our nightgowns - just because. It seemed such an exciting caper, a lark, which it was really, though it was madness, really. Those involved inevitably laugh at the memory and shake our heads with wonder and awe – horror, really, now that we are mothers ourselves - at our adolescent bravado. We all laugh, but Susi laughs best, and she laughs the loudest. We were best friends, and so we remain to this day.
Susi and I were like peanut butter and jam, or cake and ice cream – better together, made for each other, and although different as night and day in some respects, so alike in many others, especially in the important ways of all best friends. We kept one another’s secrets, shared one another’s sorrows, and for one brief, shining summer made plans to wed Creighton and Greg in a double wedding ceremony on Centre Island. Vague sketches of dreamy, drapey dresses and outlines of important details were excitedly drawn up, including guest lists – no family included, as I recall – and menu – hamburgers and fries. The grooms were brothers, which was going to make us sisters, which was probably at the heart of our plan all along.
Susi and I and several of the bad girls/best friends whom we loved more than our mothers were employed for several years as usherettes at Toronto’s Royal Winter Fair horse show, a job that involved sporting too short skirts, little red vests and absurd little black and red jockey hats; ushering wobbly people up or down dimly lit, bannister-less stairs to their seats, unfolding and then briskly giving them a few cursory flicks with our woolen dusters; flirting with the darkly mysterious boys who ran the concession stands and cajoling them into a free box of popcorn; sometimes rubbing shoulders with the over-dressed horsey set in Toronto and falling in love from afar with one RCMP officer or another as he expertly managed his musical ride; all of which amused us to no end, as well as provided us a little money for Christmas presents each year. Oh, I can hear and see us in our snotty girl gang, our adolescence taking up too much space on the streetcar, legs sprawling, voices raucous, blithely heedless of others’ – thoughtless in that almost deliberate way teenagers sometimes are. I confess I still cringe a little remembering, but Susi just laughs and says we were kids!
For a time we worked at a drugstore on the first floor of a medical building in TO, its cosmetics counter filled with carefully curated brands targeting the wealthy doctors’ wives and patients – and there I learned several life lessons, including coming to understand that there is no substitute for French perfume. Oh yes! Susi and I collected perfect little sample bottles of every product Chanel, Dior and Givenchy offered – Rive Gauche, No. 19, L’Air de Temps. We reveled in them all, filling our makeup cases, too, with samples of glorious lipsticks and silky powdered eyeshadows by these same legendary fashion houses. Just opening a new tube of Lancome mascara made our heads swell – not for us Maybelline’s wanna- be Great Lash - and we strutted our superior little lashes all over Yorkville, sometimes stopping by Hazelton Lanes for vichyssoise, or steak frites at Auberge Gavroche, blissfully unaware that we were kidding nobody.
When finally we married we were one another’s bridesmaids, and went on to be godmothers to one another’s daughters. Susi now travels the globe and eats at wonderful restaurants, lavishes her goddaughter and me with clever gifts and the big bottles of Miss Dior. She has been the most loyal and stalwart of friends, thoughtful and warm in times of need, ready to commiserate in solidarity about the trouble with dysfunctional families, still full of fun and spontaneity and laughter. I resolve each time we are together to be a little more like Susi. I am a lucky woman.