There is a line from the beginning of the movie It’s Kind of a Funny Story. The main character remarks that going to high school in New York City isn’t like going to school in any other place in the world. In my experience in the 1980s, that was definitely true. After junior high most of my friends did not go to our neighborhood high school. We took special tests and filled out applications. It was big stuff applying for high school. In my case, I went to an audition. Luckily, I was accepted.
So, in 1984 I started high school in a brand new building behind Lincoln Center. I got to school by taking the subway (three lines) from my family’s home in Queens to the Upper West Side. It took over an hour each way, but it was worth it. When I climbed out of the subway each morning, I knew that I was going somewhere special.
The first few days were pretty crazy. I did know a few girls from my ballet school, but only a handful. But, I was in some pretty intense cultural shock. My neighborhood in Queens was pretty sedate. It was full of pretty Tudor homes with well tended lawns. I had spent a lot of time in the city (aka Manhattan) before, but sitting next to a guy in geometry class with a 12 inch high, spiked Mohawk seemed like something else. My head was spinning.
The dance department was on the eighth floor of our school. Now, that was home. That was where I met most of my best friends in high school, including Stephanie. Today, you would call a friend like Stephanie a BFF (best friends forever). I am not sure if anyone had coined the term at the time. She and I were best friends. We did everything together. My oldest sister said that we even started looking like each other. (I never thought so, but we probably dressed alike and wore our hair the same way.)
Both of my older sisters were away at college when I was in high school. I thought that it was pretty great to have the top floor of our house to myself. But, every weekend I had company. Stephanie came over and slept in my sister’s twin bed every Saturday night. I bet she slept in that bed more nights than my sister did for a few years.
Sometime during this period, my oldest sister gave me a pair of fuzzy slippers as a gift. I am almost positive that it was for Christmas, although it is possible that is was for my birthday. They were big bear paw slippers. They looked a lot like the grizzly bear paw slippers that I sell today. I loved those goofy slippers and wore them all the time. I had them for years.
Stephanie also had some big goofy slippers. Hers looked like giant tomatoes. Once we discovered that we both had giant slippers we would make sure to wear them together on Saturday nights. The term coach potato had just become a big thing and microwave popcorn had been invented not too long before. We took advantage of both of these 1980s phenomena. We would have been really embarrassed if anyone at school knew about the fuzzy slipper thing, so we kept it just between us.
Stephanie and I stayed great friends all throughout high school. I thought that we would be friends forever. Then, I guess, life happens.
I went to Fordham for college and then started working after graduation and went to NYU at night for grad school. I stayed in the city and ended up in Brooklyn for a while where I met my husband.
Stephanie went to SUNY Purchase and eventually moved to Greenwich, CT and then worked for some stock brokers in Manhattan.
The last time I saw Stephanie was in Greenwich. I was about to move to Arizona to be with the man who is now my husband. If only I knew that it was going to be the last time that I was going to see her, I would have told her how much those years of friendship meant to me.
A mutual friend mentioned through Facebook that she ran into Stephanie a few years ago. Our friend danced in Broadway road shows and Stephanie came back stage to say hello. Apparently Stephanie moved to Texas, got married, and had a few kids. That seemed crazy at first, but I guess I moved to Arizona, got married, and had two kids. Even crazier, I sell fuzzy slippers for a living. You never know where life is going to take you.
Savor those innocent moments of best friends and fuzzy slippers. They are priceless.
And, Stephanie if you ever find me, get in touch. I would love to hear from you. I now own a whole warehouse full of fuzzy slippers. I am sure that at least one pair has your name on them.
Melissa Canepa Murphy