This was one of life’s paydays. My former college roommate and lifelong friend Ginger, on the right, if the hair color didn’t give her away, and her husband Wendell were in nearby Provo, Utah, last week, attending training in preparation for a six-month mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They will work in a Spanish unit of the Church in Tacoma, Washington. We had arranged to get together with our husbands one evening, and I invited one of our other college roommates Karen and her husband Bob, who live in Salt Lake, to join us.
Karen and Bob had visited Ginger’s family a couple of times through the years, as had we. But it had been a while, so our visit consisted mainly of getting caught up on each other’s families. And of course, we reminisced over our time together. Ginger and Karen may not know it, but they saved me during those emotional, roller-coaster years when I didn’t know who I was or if I was worth anything. They befriended me and taught me my worth.
Ginger and I met the summer before our high school sophomore years at a backyard barbecue at the home of a Church youth leader. My family had just moved for the 19th time in my life, from Green Bay, Wisconsin, to Rockford, Illinois, where my dad had been transferred. Our previous Church experience, in a little branch, with a handful of snooty teenagers, left me with low expectations. Rockford Ward was different! Those gregarious youth enveloped us like long-lost friends. Ginger sat beside me that evening and introduced herself, then asked all about me, looking into my hazel eyes with her clear blue ones with intense interest. Sandi, another girl in the ward, invited me to a slumber party at her house that weekend. I’d never before experienced such a welcome!
It took me a while to warm up to friendship, rather than the rejection I’d come to expect at school and church. In my experience, kids were rather selfish and exclusive. Linda, my two-years-older sister, and I had come to rely on each other as best friends. She was the more outgoing of us, so I had depended on her for much of my social life. Now, for the first time, I had a social circle of my own. Ginger and I became fast friends, sharing sleepovers, along with our dreams, secrets, joys and fears. I loved it! The summer we turned 16, we lived and worked together as kitchen aids at a Girl Scout camp, further cementing our friendship.
My family moved the January of my high school senior year to Gering, Nebraska. I thought my heart would break leaving all my friends behind, but the following September, Ginger and I reunited at Ricks College, Rexburg, Idaho, a small LDS Church junior college. We didn’t live together our freshman year, but life improved for me dramatically our sophomore year, when I moved into her apartment. Second semester, Karen joined us. Karen and I became friends as we kept each other company many a Friday and Saturday night. Her roommate Mary and mine, Ginger, were quite the socialites. Neither Karen nor I was overly endowed with self-confidence and the men at Ricks College weren’t lining up to keep us company. Talking was therapeutic for us, so we became well acquainted.
One Sunday evening my roommates and our dorm “dad,” a fellow student and the male half of the couple, who managed our dorm, cornered me. They said I carried an aloof air that made me seem snooty. It was probably the product of my many moves. They told me I had built a wall around me that only the most determined could penetrate. They assured me that I was a friend worth having. With their help I began to open up and discovered the world was a friendly place after all.
The following year Karen, Ginger and I transferred to Brigham Young University, Provo, where we lived with three other roommates. That year proved the most memorable of my life to that point! My future husband Rog, whom I had met in Gering, Nebraska, came home from his two-year LDS proselyting mission in Argentina, and began attending BYU with his older brother Rick. Rog and I resumed dating. He and Rick spent a good deal of time with me and my roommates. Weekends found us playing hilarious two-deck games of Pit, or in warm weather, swimming in our apartment pool, or in Ginger’s and my case, being thrown in with our clothes on by the guys. Karen was a fighter and they never could throw her in, though they tried. My roommates and I cooked, cleaned and ate together, we studied together, we laughed and cried together and at the end of the year, three of the six of us got married. Things were never the same. I’ve never had as much fun as I had that year!
Rog and I stayed at BYU for three more years, but we barely ever saw my old roommates. Karen met and married Bob several years later. Ginger moved to Arizona to teach school, where she met and married Wendell. Rog and I moved umpteen times, returning to Utah Valley when our kids came here to BYU, and later we became residents not far from where we had started married life.
Getting together the other night reminded me of the debt of gratitude I owe to these friends, as well as to a loving Father in Heaven who put them, and a wealth of other friends and experiences, in my path. It’s wonderful to still be friends after all these years. Life just keeps getting better!