My First Friend...


Dress: Bevello, Purse: Thrift Shop, Shoes: ? (can't remember), Bracelets: Celene Stones (15% off if you EM Krista at CeleneStones@gmail.com and tell her you saw them on ModaFresca)

Today is the first day of school for all of the kids in my county. As I pulled out of my neighborhood this morning I saw a bunch of little kids on the corner waiting for the school bus. There was this one little boy in particular who caught my eye (not in a creeper, stranger-danger way, just in a... "isn't he adorable" kind of way).

He looked about 5-6 years old, had platinum blonde hair (a fresh buzz cut), and a summer tan. He was wearing little glasses, a light blue polo shirt, and navy shorts. I am assuming that he goes to a private school and that's their uniform since most of the other kids were wearing the same thing.

This little boy caught my eye and made me smile, but seeing him also my stomach drop a little bit.

He looked so much like my friend, Frank (who I grew up with). It got me thinking back to my very first day of school. In kindergarten and first grade I attended a private, Catholic school called, St. Ann's. Frank and I were in the same class both years (not difficult to do since there was only one class per grade). I distinctly remember two things about my very first day of kindergarten.

One, I became Melissa (as opposed to Missy). There was a another Melissa (Ludden) in my class and we got to choose which one of us was going to be Melissa, and which one was going to be Missy. I chose first, and it stuck. For me, and for her.

The second thing I remember is Frank crying. He missed his mom and was really upset. So upset that our teacher brought him up near her and put him on her lap (as the rest of us sat cross-legged on the floor around her while she read us a story). I remember Frank sobbing. The kind of crying that makes it hard to breathe. I felt so bad for him. Frank and I got seated right next to each other for the rest of the year (our last names both start with "H") and we became friends that very day.

Fast forward to 1st grade. Frank would always play with my hair during story time. He'd sit right behind me on the floor and undo the braid that my mom had put in that morning. He'd just comb his hands through my hair and then give me my hair holder back when he was done. I also got my first love note that year from Frank (Do you like me? circle Yes or No). I don't remember if I ever gave the note back, but I do remember wanting to circle "yes". I mean, why else would I have let him undo my awesome French Braid???

It's funny the things you remember about certain times in your life. Those memories are almost 30 years old at this point.

We moved after that year, I went to school in a neighboring town for 2nd grade, and by the time I went back to school in my home town, I was in public school. I saw Frank around town, cheered for him on our Vince Lombardi football squad for years, played release with him near the Little League field, etc. But it wasn't until he came to public high school that we became good friends again.

We sat right next to each other in Earth Science (seated alphabetically) and had lockers next to one another throughout all of high school. We got in trouble constantly. In every class we had together. We would talk, pass notes, and laugh out loud at completely inappropriate times. We hung out together in a really close kit, large group of friends. We'd all eat lunch together at Giovanni's, ride around in each others cars listening to music, and park up on back roads and just sit around doing a whole heap of nothing. We spent days on end at our friend Ben's house. Watching TV, sitting on his porch, just hanging out. After his friend Shane passed away from cancer. He'd come over to my house on Fulton Street every day after school and we would sit up in my room for hours listening to Led Zeppelin (Stairway to Heaven), talking about life. We used to sneak out of the house on school nights once in a while to meet near the Little League park. We had a code. He would call the house and hang up. When he did that, it meant it was a "go". I'd put the cordless phone by my head so I didnt' miss the ring. Once I got the bat signal I would throw on a hooded sweatshirt and meet him at the dike down the street.

We wouldn't drink or do drugs when we went out late (well... I take that back... once we split a 6 pack of Hornsby's Hard Cider on a school night). But, mostly we would just sit and talk for hours on end. One day we were at his house laying on his living room floor watching TV when his Mom came home early. He didn't tell me this, but apparently when she left the house she had given him specific instructions. "Do not invite any friends over!" Welp... there I was (laying next to her son no less) when she walked in the front door. Holy shit was I scared. She started yelling and I started running. I got out of there so damn fast. I was terrified of Mrs. Hornbeck. That woman meant business. She had 5 kids. Four boys and one little girl. She loved God and her kids, and when I was young I didn't think she liked much else.

A couple of years later, Frank (and some of my other best friends at the time) were in a terrible car accident. It was in August 1999. I was home for the summer after my Freshman year of college. I remember being woke up that morning by my brother. There had been an accident. All of my friends were in the hospital an hour away. It knew wasn't good, but I didn't know anything else at the time. I drove to Rochester, and that's when everything changed. Frank was gone, and one of my other best friends was touch and go. We really didn't know if he was going to make it or not for a while.

That was the worst summer of my life. I lost my Grandpa Maglier in July, the accident that took Frank and forever changed my other friends lives happened in mid-August, and my Great Grandpa Buono died a few weeks later. Three funerals in 8 weeks. I was a friggin' wreck. I was sad. All of the time. I questioned everything. Why? What the F. Why? Thinking about all of this, and "talking" about it is still pretty tough even 15 years later. I'm actually crying my eyes out as I write it now.

Anyway, Frank's mom (Cyndi) and I got really close after Frank's passing. I would visit her every time I came home from college, and after that when I came home from Charlotte. She would write me letters, send me little mementos and trinkets in the mail that made her think of Frank. She gave me one of Frank's thrift shop shirts (we spent a lot of time shopping in the Salvation Amy in those days). It's a light blue, pinstriped mechanics shirt that has the name "Jim" embroidered on it. I have had it hanging on the back door of my bathroom for 15 years. I still wear it around the house and to bed at least once a week.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from my mom telling me that Mrs. Hornbeck had been in a life-threatening accident. She is in the hospital, and has been for weeks. She made it through the accident, but I don't know how much longer she will have to be in the hospital, or what life is going to be like for her and her family after all of this. She and her husband have always been small business owners, and she did not have health insurance. I couldn't help but think... "How much tragedy can one family endure?"

I got extremely, life and death sick in the summer of 2011 (the only time I didn't have health insurance in my entire life) and racked up almost $40,000 in medical bills. I am still burdened by them. I can't begin to imagine what they are going to be facing.

I have been challenged to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by three different people now, and I haven't done it yet. I have decided that instead of donating to that cause (albeit a worthy one), that I am going to donate my money to the Hornbeck family. A family from my town. A family who raised the son I loved very much. A pillar in my community. A family who has endured more pain and sadness than one should ever have to face in a lifetime. They have done so with grace, dignity, humility, and unwavering faith in God. I pray that maybe you will do the same. No amount is too small. Every dollar makes a difference.

Please go here to donate:

This is Frank. There are lots of great pictures of him, but this one is my favorite. And here's his shirt.  15 years later.

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