Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Happy Birthday, Aly

This month 15 years ago I met Aly. I was raw, new to boarding school and scraped free of parents, those unfortunate two years in America and all my illusions about my new home - which I had waited 5 years to finally get into. I was a Junior in high school - so was she - with two years left to experience Africa, experience this wonderful school (which had been pushed to mythical proportions in my feverish imagination thanks to those pesky 5 years of waiting). I knew that I was on my mettle. I knew that I'd be meeting paragons of cool, self-possessed, devil-may-care missionary-kid-dom. And Aly did absolutely nothing to vanquish my nervous prejudice. Perfectly white-skinned with a mane of wavy chestnut hair and impossibly large, crystal-blue eyes, she was easy and friendly and self-assured. And funny. And the way we met was most peculiar. Back then we bore a passing resemblance to each other. I, too, had wavy dark-brown hair, white skin and lighter eyes, though mine were green. I also contained breezy self-assurance, though Aly's was apparently all serenity and amusment and mine was borne of anger and cynicism. Anyway. We looked a little alike. [The similarity increased later when we found out that we both sang rather wellish (back then she was THE soprano of the school and I was milking the sultry alto thing. To death. I have videos.), though that wouldn't reveal itself until later.] And I got there a day before she did. As I tremblingly met group after group of classmates, their reaction was similar - before introductions they'd peer at me, say "hey", and comment on how I wasn't supposed to arrive until tomorrow. With the obvious friendly ease of people who already knew me. Instant - and I mean instant - fame ensued when I (still trembling - I'd shake for days after) laughingly informed them that I was new and had no idea who Aly was. This was my entrance into boarding school society. On the coattails of one of the coolest girls in school.

And she wasn't one of the stereotypical, "Heathers"-like popular girls, either. Our boarding school didn't have many (if any) of those. She was popular because she was beautiful and, like I said, breezy and self-assured and funny and friendly and quite terribly kind. To everybody. And she was the best singer there. And for the first time in my life, I didn't feel jealousy for my position as a singer.

You have to understand; I was raised believing without doubt in an amazing gift I was given from god to sing. I was groomed by my family and teachers to sing wherever there was a stage, and since we were in church every time the doors opened there were many, many opportunities. All the get-togethers with other children and teenagers had talent shows, and I remember consciously thinking, if things weren't going terribly great in the making-friends department of these conventiony-things, "Well. Wait until they hear me sing." I even didn't do as much personality-crafting as I could have (I still haven't ordered Dear Abby's booklet, "How to Be Popular". It really exists.), since singing to a group would elicit instant attention and either adulation if I did well or sympathy if I'd screwed up and amusement when screwing up inevitably led to me doing something funny to pass the mistake off. So - all of this to illustrate that the fact that I could sing, and I'll say sing well, was perhaps the most important thing in my life up to that point. And beyond.

[For your information, I was NOT disabused of this belief until well after college, when I chickened out on pursuing a musical career and entered the office world, where no one cared that I could sing and no one would ever hear me anyway, since the office never has a stage (pity - we could enact our silly dramas there) and I don't do well with karaoke. It's been a good, if acutely painful, lesson.]

Every other singer I'd met had been an object of veiled hostility to me. Every other singer was in competition for my share of everyone's attention. I was a diva from the womb, it seems, and nobody was welcome in my trailer with the white carpet, white couches, white walls, white flowers, celery sticks and Kabbalah water. Or on my stage. Stupid, right? Well. [sigh] I was a child, rather a histrionic one, and raised for the stage. And I'm still wildly hyperbolic.

I wish I could tell you why I didn't care that Aly was the best singer. I have no idea. She was totally rival material, but I couldn't dislike her. In fact, I was kind of smitten with her. I remain smitten to this day. [Not in that way, perverts.] I wish I could go beyond the endless descriptions of loud laugh, dulcet tones, crystal eyes, mane-of-hair, breezy what-have-you, kind heart, razor-sharp mind descriptions and really plumb for you what makes Aly amazing beyond being beautiful and smart and funny. She entices men and women alike - she catches the eye. She's wildly intelligent without ever being boorish or overbearing. She's beautiful without ever looking unearthly. She's kind and yet without equal the most honest, forthright person I've ever met - thwarted as she sometimes is by her own mountanous sense of diplomacy. Which I believe is borne of her deeply held, innate desire to give the truth without doing harm. Her laugh is loud but never irritating or inappropriate. Her voice is sultry, sacred, cool, warm, thin like winter air and rich as loam. Most wondrous of all - she is hilarious at the expense of exactly no one.

Her faults - she has them, trust me. Two of the biggies? She cares too much, about everything, and she believes maybe 20% of the previous paragraph.

Darling friend, knowing you is an honor I can't express. You are a gift - a bright light in the lives of everyone who knows you. You matter most sincerely to the circle of people who love you and who now anxiously watch over you in this new chapter of your life. I don't fear that you'll change or become someone I no longer know. I rejoice that you are inevitably becoming more truly yourself, and I can't wait to meet the new bits of you that are slowly, painfully being revealed. I love you more than I can ever fathom.



Anonymous Chad said...

We're gonna talk about Aly's faults?!?!


She'll love that, and since I have none, I think the internets are a perfect place to bring them up.

9/19/2006 6:56 PM  
Anonymous corey said...

She's good people, no doubt about it. There are a few people on earth that, because of their talent, kindness, integrity - whatever - make me feel like a total bore or a total douchebag. Aly is one of those people, but she's even more rare in that she makes me feel very likeable at the same time.

Like I said, she's good people, no doubt about it.

9/19/2006 8:47 PM  
Blogger Morphea said...

A...likeable douchebag? No. You're lovely, stupid.

Chad, they're only the good sort of romantic faults. The hell I AM going to list the yucky ones. If she has any...


9/19/2006 9:49 PM  
Blogger Aly H. said...

You're right...I only believe 20% of that glowing paragraph. Maybe 18%. But this is lovely, lovely, lovely and it's so wonderful to know I am loved so truly and so well.

It's so darn funny that our memories of me in high school can be so wildly disparate. Loud laugh? Absolutely. Self-assurance? Uh-uh. It's weird to look through your eyes and see someone I sorta recognize, but only because I saw her in an airport bathroom and noticed she looked a bit like me. But thinner and smarter.

9/20/2006 8:47 AM  
Blogger Morphea said...

It's never otherwise when you're spoken of by those that love you. Just the other day my brother told me that I'm one of the most spiritual people he knows, and here I was thinking (a little guiltily) that I was snug and warm in the stagnant blankets of spiritual apathy. There you have it.

That doesn't make the strange airport bathroom Aly any less true, for the record.


9/20/2006 10:55 AM  
Anonymous introspectre said...

Oh goodness. Now I love her, too and haven't even met her.

Have you considered car sales as a career? I'm just saying. She could be a lemon and I'd never even know. After that glowing tale, I would think lemons were the end all be all of everything and be HAPPY with a lemon.

I'm just saying.

9/27/2006 7:25 AM  

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