I used to have a best friend named Sam.
She lived on the other side of the forest, a few blocks down. We spent a lot of time in that forest, imagining trouble, and sometimes actually causing it. Sam was bolder than me. She had what my mom would call, a glint in her eye. She wasn’t afraid of adults and she wasn’t afraid to get in trouble. I, on the other hand, earned the nickname Miss Goody Two Shoes quite early on in my childhood, so I always envied this quality in Sam. For instance, when we were about ten, we sent my mom into a tizzy when she couldn’t find us one afternoon. We were on the other side of the forest enjoying some lemonade with some strangers who invited us in for a cup. Without Sam, I wouldn’t have dared, but with her… I was invincible. My mom was not pleased.
Sam gave me Porkchop at my 8th birthday party. I insisted on inviting every girl in the 2nd grade class. It was probably one of the most disastrous experiences of my childhood; however, I still have my gift from Sam. I actually passed it down to my son. A tiny lion, called a pocket pal, filled with beans. I slept with it from the day I turned 8 until the day I turned 18. Since he was easy to conceal, I had him stashed in my college dorm room. Then, I had him stashed in a keepsake box. Now, I have him stashed in my son’s closet.
Sam may have been a bit of a trouble maker, but she eradicated more trouble than she caused. I remember one particular example quite well, another birthday party. I was turning sixteen and was squeezing every minute out of it in my green, cement basement with a large collection of friends—some may have only been acquaintances. Things took a negative turn when two rough looking boys showed up unannounced. Miss Goody Two Shoes was not impressed with some stunts they were pulling in my basement. Sam found me crying in my parents’ exercise room because they had ruined my birthday. She released me from any reason to cry, with her impeccable ability to listen and make things right. It is even more impressive that she pulled this off, since she is the one who invited the boys in the first place.
Sam had a quality about her that I could never quite put my finger on. I always thought she was rather nosey, but I never had any qualms about letting her put her nose wherever she wanted. It was because she cared for me, even when we began to grow apart in high school, I knew she really, genuinely cared for all of us. Not only that, Sam was the girl to seek out when you were looking for gossip. She was the queen of knowing everything. I loved that about her.
Some of my most exhilarating memories from my childhood have Sam in them; she is the leading lady in most of them. Sam and I spent an entire summer with our feet hanging off a handsome boy’s tailgate as he did circles around our Podunk town. It would be late and approaching my curfew, but it was hard to care when I was sitting next to Sam singing “Too Much Fun” at the top of my lungs.
Even though my parents believed her to be a rather negative influence on me, I never got into any real trouble with Sam by my side. I mostly just had the time of my life. She always took me home when I mentioned my curfew, and she never rolled her eyes at my inability to disobey my parents. The only time I remember her genuinely “corrupting” me was when she double-dog-dared me to yell the f-word at the top my lungs. Don’t forget my nickname. It took a lot of persuading, but Miss Goody Two Shoes eventually stood up on that dugout (I have no idea why we were sitting on a dugout) and yelled it. This was just another moment that Sam made me feel free, like I had some invisible shell that only she could see.
She eventually moved even closer to me, just a few blocks down the street across from the railroad tracks. I can’t imagine how boring my high school experience would have been had she not been right down the street. Her basement was the location of many unusual, yet always legal and, more importantly, God-fearing activities. Without Sam, I think I would have conversed with two boys during all four years of high school. But in Sam’s basement, I had more boys to flirt with than I ever had in English class. Sam was a great flirt; I sucked at it. The point is, Sam always made me feel like I could flirt, like I had nothing to lose. She made everyone feel like that.
I learned a lot from Sam. Most of the life lessons she shared with me were discussed on the top of a grain elevator. We thought we were such rebels. I didn’t find out until later that nearly every teenager in our town spent a good deal of time on the elevator, but still, we were trespassing and we felt dangerous. One morning, around five a.m., Sam and I snuck out of her parents’ house and walked to the elevator. We weren’t trying to break every rule in the book, we simply wanted to watch the sunrise from the highest point on the grain elevator, and we were determined.
I have thought back to that moment many times in my adulthood, sitting atop a grain elevator, discussing every topic from the most shallow to the most profound. I had seen countless sunsets with Sam, but this was the only sunrise I ever watched with her. I can still see her silhouette against the soft glow of the horizon, but what I didn’t know in those moments, was that I was taking her for granted, that one day she would not be there and I would only have the memory of everything she taught me.
Despite growing apart as we became teenagers, I still remember spending so much time with Sam. She was my first friend, and she was the only one who never completely went away. We were so proud when we would tell people we’d been friends since we were two: We thought we had accomplished some impossible feat. The impossible feat would have been for us to continue to speak after high school—we didn’t.
Sam was not perfect—she’d be the first to tell you that. She knew her imperfections and she had plenty of insecurities, but she was an incredible friend. I would give anything to go back to our college years and somehow stay in touch with her. Even though she’s gone now, I am always surprised by how often I think of her and how often I catch myself mentioning her to my husband, who never knew her. I didn’t realize how big of an impact she had on my life, until the chances of her impacting it again became impossible. I wish I could share every memory I have of Sam—I can’t believe how many there are.
She was extraordinary, and she took away any chance of me ever hearing “Too Much Fun” by Daryle Singletary without lifting my eyes and asking Sam to sing it with me.
I do know one thing. I know she knew the Lord. I don’t know how much she knew Him in the days before her death, but if I know Sam, she never stopped seeking Him.