Peg and Me
Peg and Me
By Kathryn Kupferer
A true friend knows the song in your heart and responds with beautiful harmony.
No doubt there are many people I’d have to mention if I were writing my life’s history. But none of them, my family excepted, has been a part of my life as long as Peg. What started out, some 40-plus years ago, as a footrace between third-graders ended up a lifelong and enduring friendship.
The Secret To Friendship
What’s the secret to a friendship that’s spanned four decades and counting? Is it just that we’re two peas in a pod? Nope, we probably have as many differences as similarities. Did we just come from lousy families and need to lean on each other? Not at all. Peg and I each have a sister and parents to whom we’re very close. Are we just lucky then? For sure. But there is plenty more to our story than luck.
From the time we became friends in third grade—after tying in a race at recess—Peg Marston and I were inseparable. We did everything together, both during school and after school. We roller-skated, skipped rope, played jacks, rode bikes, created imaginary villages with troll dolls, built tree houses, roamed the woods for hours, built dams in creeks, wrote our own plays and magazines ("The Marsferer-Kupton Gazette". Ugh. Hopefully we were more creative with the articles than the title). In short, all there was fun to do in the early 1970s, we did it. Soon we were part of each other’s families, although I must admit to more memories of hanging out at her house than at my own. The Marstons included me in everything from family birthdays to days at the pool to weekend-long sleepovers and even vacations at the beach.
After our initial desire to beat each other in a race, I can’t remember ever feeling competitive toward Peg again. What she wanted, I wanted for her. What I wanted, she wanted for me. The truth is, Peg and I complemented each other perfectly, especially in the days when parents didn’t expect to know where their kids spent entire summer afternoons. We both liked adventures, but I doubt we would’ve ventured so deep into the woods without each other. She was my back. I liked seeing what I could get away with and she’d go along with my more devious nature—pulling pranks, sneaking out of class, playing endless games of ring and run—and bear the punishment with me if we got caught, which we often did. I could be a moody child as well, and she would stay close, alternately trying to lift my spirits or just wait it out with me until the cloud passed. We both claim to be each other’s rock, but honestly she was way more true.
If you had to choose one of us to sit with you while your child was in the hospital, choose Peg. She would grill the doctors and get answers, phone your loved ones reliably, feel every bit of your anxiety and never leave your side. She was emotionally tough—and by that I mean that she’s not afraid of bare-naked feelings—where I was physically tough. I would climb until I ran out of tree. If we only had one bike, I did the pedaling. I once threw a log at a kid being mean to her brother (hey, it’s what was handy and it sure got the message across). Here’s how I’ve always described our symmetry: She liked the cake, I liked the icing. When you’re eight, that’s just heaven in a friend.
The year we began sixth grade, my family moved to a new neighborhood and a new school. I cried every night. Peg and I only saw each other on weekends. Still, we remained devoted to each other through troublesome teenage years, first marriages gone south, babies, and the loss of family members. There was never any question in my mind who would always be there for me at points high and low.
I’ve puzzled over what kind of glue held us together all these years. I’ve decided that our bond endured in part because we were lucky enough to meet and become friends at an age when we were prejudgmental. There is a very sweet period in childhood when kids accept people whole. They might realize that some aspects of a person are less praiseworthy than others, but they haven’t yet settled into the habit of forming and voicing opinions about another’s character. I’ve noticed, when I help out in my third-grader’s classroom, that the kids rarely say things like, “Sam is a bad boy because he’s always talking when he should be listening.” Instead I hear, “That’s Sam. He talks a lot in class.” At worst they’ll admit, “It’s distracting” or “I wish he’d be quiet.” But in the end, they accept Sam as the noisy kid he is. (Just wait, Sam. Fifth grade, I’ve learned, is when group-think rears its smug head.)
So luck was part of the equation after all since Peg and I began our friendship without the burden of bias. We accepted each other whole, and that has never changed. This is not to say that we have never looked at each other and wondered, “What in hell were you thinking?” But I have realized, in thinking about the beauty of this friendship, that it’s important to let those you love trip and fall from time to time. I do believe that mistakes, regrets, and wrong turns can provide perhaps the richest soil for learning, for change and for fresh starts.
Peg and I have done our share of tripping up, but that’s life. Bring it on. I’ll just make sure to do so with Peg nearby.
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