I have a 20-year-old photograph hanging on my wall -- a snapshot of two girls who scarcely know each other making a pizza. An odd subject for a photograph, but it is one of my favorites. It is a portrait of pizza and friendship in the making.
One of the girls in the photo is me. The other, Karen, and the photographer, Maria, were two of my Baylor roommates. We met on a hot summer day in the basement of Pat Neff, waiting in line to enroll as transfer students. All in need of housing and roommates, we decided on the basis of a 15-minute acquaintance to share rent, utilities, household chores and bathroom privileges for the next school year. Needing a fourth person to share rent on a two-bedroom apartment, we chose a name from a list of Baylor transfer students also seeking housing. A few phone calls confirmed Valerie as the last member of our foursome. We met her the day she moved in.
The pizza picture was taken the night we arrived in our apartment. Too tired at the end of a long day of cleaning and lugging boxes to go out to dinner (and too poor to order out), we stayed home and made pizza the old-fashioned way (from a Chef Boyardee box packed by one of our moms).
In August of that year, we were four strangers and a study in Baylor demographics: one Baptist from South Dakota, one Pentecostal from Oklahoma, one Episcopalian from Louisiana and one Catholic from Texas. By October, we were like sisters, sharing long talks over four pints of Blue Bell ice cream, quarreling over whose turn it was to clean the bathtub and borrowing one another's clothes. These are memories I wouldn't trade and friendships I couldn't replace.
Our career goals took us in different directions when we left Baylor, and the separation was painful. Back then, I thought it was the heartbreaking end of an incredible experience. I was right about the experience, but wrong about the end. The years have proved it was a beginning. Time and distance may separate us, but we still get together and talk about our lives, our families, our hopes for the future and our good memories of Baylor days.
It's hard to imagine, as I look at the photograph, how little we knew of each other when we started. We had no idea then how we would grow to love one another. I'm glad we didn't remain strangers.
My path from Baylor led me to life as an Air Force wife. In my family's mobile lifestyle, I need to be reminded often that the value of friendship is worth the pain of separation. With every move, there are new neighbors to meet, new friends to make. After 17 years and seven moves, I wonder if I have it in me to start over again. Wouldn't it be easier to let new acquaintances remain just that? Maybe, but what am I missing by letting go of a potential friendship?
As we move from place to place, it is much easier for me to let go of friends if I have kept them at arm's length rather than embracing them. But I know from experience that when I need a friend and my extended family is half the country or world away, what I want is a hug, not a handshake. Learning that lesson was part of my priceless Baylor education, and looking at my pizza picture helps me remember it.
Barnes, BA '85, received her degree in journalism. She and her husband, Mark, an Air Force chaplain, and their three children are now stationed at Moody AFB in Valdosta, Ga., where Terri is a wife, mom and freelance writer.