All I can remember about her right now is that she loved cows.
Isn’t it amazing? You spend almost your whole life knowing someone and when it comes right down to summing up a life in a few words, it’s all a huge blank. All I can remember is a feeling…just a particular feeling deep in my heart that is the very essence of what she was to me.
We met in the third grade. It was in the park across from Horizon Elementary school in Jerome…I crawled in one end of a cement tube and she had crawled in the other, and we met in the middle. We were both chubby little brown girls with glasses. We were wearing the exact same outfit – purple tie-dyed stretch pants (her favorite color was purple) and a white top with fringe around the bottom. Instant best friends.
But I loved horses and she loved cows.
No matter what she wore – polka-dotted vintage-inspired pumps and red lips or her curly hair in a ponytail and shit-covered muck boots, she was always the same girl. She was always laughing, always joking, always texting. I always teased her about the fact that her phone never left her hand…it was constantly buzzing with incoming messages and calls. She was everybody’s friend, everybody’s angel, a ready shoulder to cry on, a girl with a huge heart who just wanted to help. She was a farm-raised, punk-rock Mother Theresa.
We were always on an adventure…we never had a goal or a plan. We’d just put on our mascara and head out the door, ready for wherever the night would take us. She called me Marilyn, I called her Audrey. She was classic. She was the most scattered, crazy, free-spirited girl I’d ever met; she always encouraged me to open up and live life and have fun. She used to think I was crazy because I wanted to settle down and be a ranch wife. She had no use for love in those days, so when she ended up married and domestic and I ended up a gypsy, wandering around unsettled, we laughed so hard at our Freaky Friday switcheroo. I called her my pin-up Betty Crocker. I remember when all we ate was chocolate pudding for a whole week because I bought an entire case on sale at Wal Mart…now she was whipping up culinary masterpieces in her little kitchen. She wanted a white picket fence, a clothesline, a ruffled apron, tattoos, piercings, and a closet full of heels.
And she always dreamed of having cows.
I love her with all my heart. No matter how far away we were or what arguments we had or how long we spent apart, we could pick up a conversation in the middle like we had spoken five minutes before. She’d text me the most random things and say, “I saw this and I thought of you!” and she’d always be right on. She knew my heart, sometimes better than I ever knew it. She was so much wiser and stronger than I think anyone ever gave her credit for. She could be in so much pain and she’d put a big smile on her beautiful face and laugh and find one tiny thing to turn her situation into a positive one. I always wished I could have her strength.
How do you write something like this? How do you say goodbye to someone you could never imagine your life without? When I sat down at my computer this morning, this was not what I had in my head to write. Life changes in an absolute instant.
I will always have that girl in my heart. I will always remember driving down the back roads in my 1988 Toyota Corolla with her riding shotgun, and every time we’d pass a bunch of Black Angus bulls in a pasture, she’d yell out “THEY’RE SO CUUUUTE!!” And we’d make smooch faces at them as we passed.
There are far too many memories and inside jokes and incidents and stories to tell…there’s no way I could write them all, or obviously even write a few of them into a coherent thought. There are no coherent thoughts to be found when someone is taken from the world so quickly and unexpectedly. There’s no way to prepare. We all have our memories of her, and I promise you there isn’t a one of them that’s bad. You couldn’t NOT love her. You couldn’t not feel better when you were with her. You couldn’t not have fun when she was around.
She wanted to be Holly Golightly. She wanted to be a Playboy Bunny (not to be naked, but just because they were so glamorous). She wanted everyone to know that her last name is pronounced Schul-TIES, not Schul-tees…and when she got married, she was adamant about hyphenating because she was proud of who she was. She wanted to be there for her little sister; she wanted to be the best Army wife that ever wore her husband’s dog tags. She wanted to be everything to everyone she loved…what she didn’t know was how much she was to all of us.
But what will always stick in my mind when I think of her, is this dazzling, glitzy girl in red lipstick and polka dot heels putting a big, crimson smooch on the snot-covered nose of an unsuspecting Angus bull.
She never stopped loving cows.