Friday, March 13, 2015


I've been getting by, though barely. Fortunately there haven't been any exams this week. Professors have been in some classes kind, and in other cases less brutal than is typical for them. I walked out of anatomy lab because I just couldn't handle it. I can't avoid it forever, but for this week, I'm not going back. Theoretically, we're not ranked, so grades don't matter if I survive the cut, which shouldn't even be an issue.

Claire and I met when I was eight and she was nine. At that point, she was a grade ahead of me. In middle school my brother and I skipped seventh grade, so Claire and I  were in the same grade from that point on.  We met before my parents moved us to the town in which we would eventually settle for the next eight or so years. The gymnastics program in which both Claire and I participated was located in the town to which I would soon move. There wasn't a program in the small town in which I lived before, so I was picked up in a van every day after school and driven there  twenty miles or so away. 

When my family moved to the small college town in which we would spend the next eight years, we moved to a home in which the back yard faced Claire's backyard, with only a very flimsy fence separating the two yards. We had known each other from gymnastics for nearly two years, then became very close friends once we were also neighbors. Not long after moving to the new house, I was forced out of gymnastics. Claire quit soon after for different reasons. both of us had reached the point in gymnastics at which you essentially choose gymnastics over all other activities or you quit. Claire, not being one-dimensional enough to forsake all other activities, gave up gymnastics maybe a month or two after my parents pulled me out of the program. I hadn't given it much thought, but I very likely would have made the same choice soon as well. I was a scholar first, a musician second, and someone who liked to have fun next. Gymnastics ultimately would have ranked a distant fourth.

Claire, too, was scholarly, and was a musician. She was a cellist -- something that often made me very jealous. If there were any instrument I would like to play, it would be the cello. I don't think I have the patience any longer to get through those ugly early stages of any stringed instrument. Claire played beautifully. She was also an athlete. She was a talented volleyball player as well; she was the team's #1 setter, and never hesitated to throw herself on the hard wooden floor to dive after a ball. I just couldn't relate to the masochism it took to be so good at such a position or even such a sport. (I didn't play volleyball at all because it jammed my wrists and took my out of commission as a pianist a few times, so my dad wrote me doctor's notes to excuse me from tje sport whenever it was required in PE.) One cannot lead as varied a life as Claire did  yet be an elite gymnastic. Claire chose the multi-dimensional life over gymnastics every day. 

She chose multi-dimensionalism in college as well, turning down a volleyball scholarship at a Division I school, much to her parents' chagrin. In the end, it wouldn't have mattered, as the first symptoms of lymphoma showed up maybe a month into her freshman year.

Our respective departures from gymnastics seemed if anything to give us more time together, particularly once  I was moved up to hear grade. we usually managed to have the same class schedules.  We were basically good girls who occasionally caused a bit of trouble. I don't know if I've admitted to this on the blog before, but  once in ninth grade, when we knew in advance that our biology teacher was to be absent, we stole his lesson plans and replaced them with ones that we had written ourselves. For our own period of the class, we just declared it a study period in which the teacher would go over exactly what would be on the next day's test. (The teacher always had the tests ready in advance  in his lesson plan book.) For some of the other classes, we directed the substitute teacher to lead the class in yoga and meditation. The biology classroom was to be used by another teacher during the last class of the day, so the sub spent her next period in the staff lounge. She left the plan book, the lesson plans, and a note she had written in the teacher's mailbox. Claire and I grabbed the materials out of the teacher's box and replaced them with the plans the teacher had originally written and a note we had ourselves composed, basically saying that nothing unusual had happened during the day. As far as we know, no one was ever any the wiser concerning the change in plans for the day.

This is just a stock photo, but it's pretty much what the classroom looked like that day.

We had a teacher who might be considered somewhat gullible our sophomore year for AP English literature. Most of the students were seniors and were too sophisticated for silly pranks, and it wasn't easy for a couple of little sophomores to convince them to participate in out silliness, but we somehow talked them into it once. We were in an upstairs part of a building that would be condemned and demolished in the next few years. anytime someone even walked across the floor, the room shook. It occurred to one or the other of us that it would not be difficult to simulate an earthquake in that room if we could get the seniors in the class on board with the scheme. It wasn't as difficult to convince them as we though it might have been. The teacher directed everyone to crawl under their desks as one or two of the boys managed to shake large sections of desks.One girl reached up  to the light switch and made the lights flicker on and off.  Even the students and teacher in the room next door were sufficiently alarmed to crawl under the tables in their classroom to protect themselves from potential falling debris.  

A prank of that magnitude cannot be kept quiet for long, and eventually word got out, but the administration couldn't really punish an entire class when essentially no harm had been done.  It's still a legend at our former high school, and kids who were probably in fourth grade when it happened claim to have been present and to have participated in the great earthquake.

Claire was with me during most significant moments of my life from eighth grade on. She was with me when I purchased the proctology textbook.  She was the one who gave me the dartboard emblazoned with the picture of the boy who dumped me as his prom date when I was wheelchair-bound. She wasn't with me when I was attacked in the restroom because she had volleyball practice. She swears things would have gone down far differently had she been there, although I'm not sure what she could have done about it at 5'3" and 100 pounds. Who knows? Maybe she had some moves that I didn't know about even then.

Claire lived an almost storybook existence until the beginning of her freshman year of college, when she noticed frequent bruising for which she couldn't account and swollen lymph nodes. She eventually got the non-Hodgkins lymphoma diagnosis. She received what most would agree was the best of medical care. two years later, things were looking good for her.   Then, just about  five months ago, symptoms began to reappear.  she was ready to fight the disease again. She did fight it -- very hard -- with the latest in treatments. A little over a week ago she developed pneumonia. In her body's weakened state, she couldn't fight the pneumonia. Within three days it was over.

She leaves behind a younger sister and an older brother, a dog, a cat, two parents,  four grandparents, and a whole slew of friends who will never forget her. I hope you're in a good place now, Claire. 

We had these ridiculous poodle skirts left over from some function. For some reason we used to put them on and wear them while jumping on her backyard trampoline.

as I will always remember her


  1. Claire was obviously a very special young woman and great friend to you. It will take time to recover from losing her so suddenly. I am very sorry for your loss, but it was a privilege to read your tribute to your friend. Frankly, she sounds like she was more of a sister to you than a friend. We should all be lucky enough to have friends that wonderful.

  2. Alexis, I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. Thank you for sharing some of your memories. I don't know you or Claire beyond what you have shared on your blog, but I hope it gives you comfort to know that there is one more person who is saddened by her passing.
    -- Grant

  3. I am truly sorry for your loss. Friends like that don't come around very often in this life. At least you got to have her for a friend and I know you will never forget her. Keep her spirit alive in your heart. It will cause you to smile when you least expect it.

  4. What lovely memories. They are yours to keep.

  5. Alexis,there are no words to ease the ache you feel. Just remember that there are people who care for you and hope that you will have the strength to cope with this burden.

    You are a unique being with incredible maturity and insight into what fate has served up to you.Your experiences with Claire, and the courage you are developing in coping with life's hard challenges are turning you into a person who will have much to offer in your chosen work.

    Claire will be someone who will continue to bring you comfort. She will stay with you.