I attended a small Christian school with a graduating class of 25. There were 9 girls and 16 guys in our class, and over half of us had attended school together since kindergarten. They were a great group of people. During the last few years of high school, I developed a good friendship with three guys in my class – Mark, Joel and Tony. The four of us were in quite a few activities together. Mark, Joel and I were in concert band, pep band, held leading roles in the musicals, competed against each other in numerous speech competitions, and were jockeying for the top academic spots in our class. We had a friendly rivalry. Mark, Tony and I attended church together and were actively involved in our youth group and youth choir. Tony was also the most talented pianist I have ever heard, and the four of us were all in high school choir together.
These three young men welcomed Ked into our circle as if he’d always been one of us. In one of my first letters to Ked after we started dating, I informed him that Mark wanted his address and that Tony considered him a friend although they hadn’t even met yet. The guys all badgered me as to when they’d get to meet him. Whenever Ked had been in town, he’d write afterwards to say that he felt like he fit in so well and that my friends were his friends. Ked even once spent the night at Tony’s during a weekend visit when he was unable to stay at our house.
Those three amigos were such a blessing to me, and their friendship kept me sane that school year. They were my sharpening iron. When I was having a rough day, they treated me with kindness and respect; when I got out of line, they’d challenge me to reconsider my actions. They taught me to relax and not take myself so seriously. They patiently endured my incessant talking about Ked and how wonderful he was and how miserably I missed him. I, in turn, listened to all of their girl woes.
I remember sitting on an old church pew turned hallway bench just outside the gym one day. One of them was giving me the full run down of his lack-of-girl woes which ended with, “I just can’t talk to girls!” I raised one eyebrow and cocked my head to one side and replied, “Excuse me? And what am I?” As if the thought had just struck him that I was, indeed, a girl he said, “Oh, well…you’re Amy!” Humph. I feigned disgust before urging him to just be himself around girls like he was with me – that he didn’t need to work to impress a girl, and that the right one would eventually come along and love him for him, just the way he was. I reminded him that high school wasn’t everything and soon he’d be leaving our small school and small town and venturing out into the bigger world. I have no idea if my encouragement helped any at the time, but it all eventually came true.
The musical our senior year was “The King and I.” Joel and I held the leading roles and Mark had a major supporting role as the King’s assistant. The three of us were practicing the big “Shall We Dance” scene one day in the choir room when the two of them schemed against me. Just as Joel whirled me around towards the door that led to the outside, Mark flung it open and I twirled out the door, unable to stop my momentum. The door slammed and locked behind me. It was a chilly, early spring day and I pounded on the door mercilessly. When they finally let me back in, even the director was chuckling.
The musical was about a month and a half before graduation, and in a way it was our final hurrah. All but a few members of my class were either in the cast or crew. I was ecstatic when Ked and his family made plans to come down for the closing performance. I recounted as many of the rehearsal experiences as I could in my letters to Ked.
Well two things I had figured would happen finally did! First of all, Joel and I were dancing and he almost ran into the little platform. I proceeded to step on my skirt and we both lost it. Next thing I knew, I was on the floor and everyone was laughing uncontrollably. So, Joel helps me up and says that infamous line in his best King voice, “COME! We do it again!!” I started backing up yelling, “No! No!” And everyone laughed again. The night before, I crashed into the pillar (but didn’t knock it over!) Then, we got to the dying scene. Joel hands me a pen and notebook during the scene to record his dying wishes. The page on the notebook tonight read, “Don’t look now, but there’s a booger hanging from your nose, Love, Joel, The King.”
When Joel heard Ked was coming for the final performance, he threatened to scrawl remarks in the notebook about Ked in order to make me crack up. As if I wasn’t nervous enough knowing that Ked was somewhere out there beyond the lights watching my every move. My memory fails me as to whether or not Joel followed through. Most likely he did, and while I was feigning sadness that he was “dying” I was thinking of ways to urge the process along.
About a month after the musical, we had two formal banquets to attend – one for church and one for school. Ked was only going to be able to come down for one, and naturally we chose to attend the larger more formal banquet for school together. I had ventured to ask him if it would be alright to attend the church banquet with Tony rather than going by myself. Ked was gracious on the phone and said he didn’t mind, although he admitted it wasn’t easy and he wished he could be there.
Shortly after we had discussed the church banquet, I received a letter in the mail from college with the schedule for on-campus orientations and class registrations. The only date my family could make the trip to Michigan happened to be the same weekend as the church banquet I was going to attend with Tony. My mom looked at me and said, “I think this is God rewarding Ked for his willingness to let you attend the banquet with Tony. Now, instead, he gets to spend the weekend with you at college!”
We attended the orientation together, making sure we had a few classes together in the fall. September couldn’t come soon enough!