Prime Rib Breakfasts and Rubik’s Cube Dreams
“You never had PRIME RIB?!” Terri yelled, her head in her refrigerator with only her dark curls and Smurf pajamas visible to me. Her parents were still asleep and she was searching for something we could have for breakfast instead of cereal. And she had struck gold – her parents’ leftovers from their date the night before.
I had spent the night at her house in Emerald Hills and her parents had gone out to dinner the night before and left us with her older brother and a babysitter. Sitting on the leather sofa in her family room that morning, I felt a little like I wanted to be adopted and a little like I just wanted to go home to the cut-up rental house on Wilson street and make instant Cream of Wheat. I wanted to belong there, but I just didn’t feel like I did. I was amazed that Terri wanted to be my friend at all.
She was one of the Pix soda girls from the YMCA summer camp. She was thin, wore a bikini, and had a cooler full of Pix in a variety of flavors. Terri had everything going for her in my eyes. For some reason, she chose to befriend the fat kid with the orange water wings who was surviving on one Capri-Sun a day and water from the rusty fountain near pavilion 10 at TY park.
One day, we were sitting at one of the picnic tables in pavilion 10 and Terri handed me a torn half of her Fruit Roll-up. “Hey, do you wanna sleepover on Saturday?” She asked me. I finished chewing the red faux fruit and swallowed it with a gulp of Capri-Sun, and said, “Ok. I have to ask my mom.”
Somehow, I got my mom to talk to her mom on the phone and agree to let me sleep over. Maybe she needed some private time with Raul or maybe the fact that they lived in Emerald Hills made her feel good about me spending time there. Whatever the reason, I was allowed to occupy Terri’s trundle bed for one night. I got to cuddle her koala bear stuffed animal and play with her Rubik’s Cube. And, I got to eat prime rib for breakfast. It all felt so normal, and I knew I did not come from a normal family. I felt kind of sad when I had to go home, but I also felt a little relieved to be in my own room again.
When summer ended and we went back to school, Terri and I didn’t see each other much. We talked on the phone, but it wasn’t the same as sitting in the humidity and enjoying fake fruit products. I didn’t think I’d ever see her in person again when she called me on my birthday. She and her mom were coming over to bring me a gift. I wasn’t having a party or anything. She just remembered that it was my birthday!
They arrived that afternoon, and I let them in. I walked them past the unusable cricket-infested front bathroom, and into the dark living room. We sat on the couch and my mom came up the two steps and through the hanging black and red beads from her room. She fake smiled and looked at them and the gift bag I was holding.
I pulled the Koala out of the bag first. “Oh my god! It’s just like yours! Thank you!” I hugged Terri.
“There’s something else in there,” her mom said.
I reached in and pulled out my very own Rubik’s Cube. “THANK YOU! I’ve always wanted one of these! Mom! Look!”
My mom said, “Wow! Cool!” She looked at Terri’s mom, trying to maintain her smile, and said, “You didn’t have to do that.” Adult Lisa understands that my mother felt inadequate at that moment because she did not have the money to buy these cool gifts. Kid Lisa thought that was a weird thing to say to someone who gave me birthday presents.
I never saw Terri again. She went to her elementary school and I went to mine. I went to YMCA camp again a couple of years later, but I didn’t see her there. If I knew her last name, I’d look her up on Facebook. She was a very good friend to a chubby, awkward kid at a time when I really needed one.