I'm an ace Google researcher. If I have your name and one or two other details about you, I can usually find you on the Internet if there's anything out there to be found. The problem with Ivy is that she has she has an incredibly common last name. Maybe she's not on the Internet. Maybe she's married. Maybe she's moved to another state. I've checked Google, Facebook, MySpace. Can't find her.
Ivy was my best friend in middle school. She had more guts and more imagination than anyone I'd ever met. We went to a very small school at our church - there were just three of us in our grade. Poor Michelle - always the third wheel. I can't say we were very nice to her.
Here's a picture from one of my birthday parties. Michelle is on the left and Ivy is on the right in the blue sweater, with two of her three sisters beside her. Her youngest sister, Sherika, was too young to be at the party. I'm the one in the lovely yellow and orange sundress with the yellow t-shirt on underneath. I'm looking in a hand mirror and combing my hair - one of my birthday presents.
Ivy and I were always together, except that on Saturdays I went to the church and she went to the black church. Mount Olive, it's called. I went there a few times, or she'd come to mine, but for the most part our Saturdays were separate. I knew that Mount Olive had better singing and a more engaging pastor. I wanted to go there and sit and not listen with Ivy.
As shy as I was in middle school (and high school, and college), Ivy was my exact opposite. Outgoing, sharp, witty, superfuncrazy. She came up with the games we all played at recess. One I remember was called "orphanage." We were all a family - our parents had died and we were on the run, trying to escape social services so we could stay together. Sounds terrible now, but what I remember is Ivy and I holding hands, running like the wind: sisters.
Ivy was impatient. No call waiting in those days, so if I was on the phone with another friend when she wanted to talk to me, Ivy would call the operator and have her break through on the line, telling me there was an emergency. I have no idea what we talked about - school or TV, I guess. There were no boys our age at our school. I think we were both bored out of our minds, restricted by circumstance and our overbearing religion. These were good times and bad for both of us.
I stayed over at Ivy's house one night. We played outside
with her youngest sister, who was probably 2 or 3 at the time. Sherika
was dancing and we were laughing, I remember. She was a lot like Ivy -
charming, outgoing, fun.
At dinner, I was so very afraid I was going to spill something. They
had plastic on their sofa, plastic on the seats of their Ford Escort. We weren't allowed to act crazy inside. I
really wanted her parents to like me. I ate and drank carefully and kept quiet.
That night, I was 11 with a brand new training bra and an extreme case
of shyness. When it was time for bed, Ivy changed into her nightgown in
the closet so that I wouldn't be embarrassed to do the same. I went
next. As I was walking out, her older sister Shauna walked into the
room, "Oh, she doesn't want black people to see her get undressed!" I
was mortified. I was so embarrassed about my body, but I couldn't
explain that to her. Instead, I turned 17 shades of red and didn't say a
word. Ivy protested that it wasn't like that but Shauna just walked
out, laughing at my stupidity. There was no way we could've explained
to her that we were sisters. That we understood each other. She wouldn't have believed us.
After two years of being best friends, her family moved to Atlanta. I was devastated. We promised to keep in touch, but never did. As I was going through high school and college, I thought of her. When I hated my life, I wished I could talk to her. When things were good, we couldn't celebrate. Then one day 13 years ago, she called me. I was about to graduate from college. I was living with my mom, asleep in my bed, and the phone rang. My mom got it, brought it to me, and said, "It's Ivy."
I couldn't believe it. I was joyously happy to hear from her.
She told me that she was thinking of going back to school. She had moved back to our hometown, but might be moving back again to Atlanta, depending on which school she wanted to go to. She had three kids, had never married. She sounded stressed.
She was the same; she was different. She was grown up; I was not.
I asked about her sisters, her family. I forget what she said about Shauna; we never were close. Her younger sister, Tasha, who I also loved, was doing well, living in DC. I asked about Sherika. She was surprised I hadn't heard. She'd passed away while still just a child. I forget what she had - cancer? It tore the family apart. Her parents divorced. She did anything she could not to be home. Then she got pregnant...
I don't remember what I said, but I can tell you how much this hurts. That I didn't know while it was happening. That her family didn't survive it intact. The pain she must have felt, the anger. That Sherika is gone. That I could've been there for her and wasn't.
She gave me her phone number, but said she was moving soon. We were going to get together. When I called, I got a machine. When she called, she got mine. When I called again the next week, the phone was disconnected. I dreamed that I went to visit her mother in Atlanta so that I could find Ivy, that I hugged her mom and told her I was sorry to hear about Sherika. Then Sherika was outside in the sunshine, dancing in a butter yellow dress, ankle socks, and patent leather shoes. I watched her and thought, oh, she's fine, just fine!
I have not yet found Ivy again, though I hold her close to my heart and continue to look. No matter the time, the miles, the circumstances, she is my sister. I hope that somehow, she feels that way too.
I'm entering this post in Gayle's Monday Memories at Planet M Files. Please join in, if you can!