May I take a moment to tell you about my friend Lorie? She has known me a very long time. Since college. Neither of us has done anything remarkable really. She stayed in Nebraska after college and I came east, so I guess the most remarkable thing about us is that we have stayed friends all these years—best friends, really—without having much in common in our day-to-day lives, beliefs, or interests. Oh, there were years when we lost touch, but we always reconnected, and as the decades pass, our connection grows stronger without any expectation from either of us about how the other needs to behave. I have nothing to offer her, nor she me, other than the fact that she knows me, and I her, in a way that others don’t. I can show my worst self, and she will always end the conversation with, “Love you Weenie,” which was her college name for everyone.
I graduated high school in 1971, from Bloomfield Hills Andover High School, in the tony town of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and spent the next year after in St. Maarten, where my father was building a resort with the likes of Henry Ford, Gus Levy, and Billy Solomon. I played the role of Julie of the Love Boat, running bingo games that I rigged, and picking up people like Arthur Ashe or Senator Pete Williams from the airport. In 1972 I enrolled at the University of Nebraska, partly because the chairman of the board of my dad’s company was chairman of Banker’s Life of Nebraska and could fly me home for the holidays on his private jet. And also because it had the number one football team and I was all about cheerleading. It all made perfect sense.
I flew to New York City to get ready for school, and my stepmother took me to Bloomingdales, where I bought fabulous skirts, loafers, and red wool pants with white cashmere sweaters; these were the University colors, and I chose them so I would fit in. We bought lovely towels and sheets too, and two huge suitcases later, I was at their apartment in New York and they flew back to St. Maarten, leaving me with a one-way ticket to Nebraska ten days later. What to do in New York was the question, and I decided that I would get a bus ticket to Nebraska. It would take fifty-something hours to get there, but I would still arrive early enough to learn the lay of the land. Good plan.
I remember the bus ride west, through Cleveland and Iowa. I read a bunch of books and looked out the window a lot. The thing is, I wasn’t afraid. I wasn’t anything, really. I was just going to the next part of my life. A new place.
I stayed at the Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln until I could move into my dorm, Pound Hall, where I was the first to arrive with my two big suitcases filled with the clothes we’d purchased, the new linens with tags still on them, and some books I’d bought along the way. I was sitting on the bed waiting to meet my roommate when Lorie bounced into the room. She was a tiny person, maybe four inches shorter than me. Bell-bottom jeans and a tee shirt that had a big N on it. I was in an oxford shirt and tailored pants, and I must have looked like the librarian or something. She told me later that she had been excited to meet the girl from St. Maarten, which she had to look up, having never heard of it before. I thought I looked fine, but maybe she knew better.
Big hello. Big hello. A few questions from her and two shakes later we were in her little Volkswagen bug headed to the university book store store to get me some jeans and tee shirts. I never wore the clothes I’d bought at Bloomingdales.
While everyone was arriving with their families, she instantly became mine. She was the Floor SA (student assistant), and she was responsible for me, but we became responsible for each other. We never hung out together except for in our rooms. She lived in the dorms to save money, and I moved on to football games and rich sorority life. When she got married four years later, I wore that ugly pink dress that the other bridesmaids’ mothers had made for them—but I had mine done by a seamstress who made it look like couture. And, might I add, we had these ridiculous turbans made out of the dress material that served no other purpose than pushing in my ears that did stick out back then.
She moved to Japan with her Navy flier husband, John, and I moved to New York City, where I married an investment banker and lived a life of global travel and movers-and-shaker dinners where the conversations turned into front-page news. She brought her kids to visit me in New York, one at a time, year after year, and her middle daughter, Sabrina, became one of ‘my’ kids—and I moved her into NYU the way her mom had moved me into the University of Nebraska twenty-five years earlier.
I drove my daughter to see UNL the summer of her junior year on the same roads I had taken on that Greyhound bus so many years before. I wanted her to see the fields of our country, the endless cornfields that feed a nation, and to realize as I did that this country has all kinds of people and they each have a culture all their own, and that friendship is based on an animal instinct—a fit if you will, like that first pair of jeans in which you know you are your best self when you put them on, and not necessarily geography or common interest. We went to Alliance Nebraska to see Lorie after seeing the Nebraska, and her private school New York City foundation was enriched. She went to Princeton and then Harvard Law, but just ask her about the trip. She will tell you…
Lorie makes me my best self. She believes in God enough for the both of us, and when I had my hip replaced last summer, she was on her knees in church while I was under the knife on the table. When she had a health scare this year, I set her up with a wellness essential oils person to try another way because I’m all about God helping those that help themselves. Lorie is the one who tells me on the phone that I am a great writer, and she says it has nothing to do with her love of me. I don’t believe her, but I need to hear her say it. I tell her her husband John’s point of view on things like family because his background is more like mine, and I know how alien a person without roots can feel. She has no malice toward anyone, and I do. Politics? I think she’s uninformed and she thinks I’m a radical. Or maybe not. We steer clear of it mostly. We have nothing in common other than our love for each other, which is everything.
So, if you met us and spoke to us, you might not get it, but no matter—we do. She is my first call when I have done something terrible or something great. I know when she is lying about how she is feeling, and I understand the choices she has made and the roads she has travelled—and vice versa. So we are friends forever, never lacking things to discuss, and never discussing anything that makes a difference to anything.
Oprah has her Gayle, and I am lucky that I have my Lorie, who loves me just the way I am and believed in me when no one else did, and liked me when I didn’t like myself. Ode to Lorie. Fabulous friend. Midwest marvel. Committed Catholic. I love Lorie. I am so grateful for that journey back in 1972 that brought me to one of the rocks of my foundation. My you all have a Lorie in your life.