A month after I graduated from Northern Illinois University, after sitting around and passively looking for a job in a shrinking and depressed market, my mom gave me an ultimatum: Get a job, any job, just get a job.
I checked out the classifieds. I applied for a job waiting tables, intent on the thought that it would be temporary until I found a full-time reporting job. I met Maggie a week later when I started to waitress at Fox’s Pub on Western Avenue. I was 22 years old; it was January of 1994.
Our friendship was fast and furious. I was smart. She was sassy. Together: We were insane. Smoking and drinking and laughing our way up and down the bars on Western Avenue, the Beverly boys didn’t know what hit them. Every weekend some guy would ask where I had been all this time? I thought what the heck? I’d been going to the bars on Western for years. But it was Maggie and me together that was different. We were electric and ridiculous. Someone would ask us what we did for work, and we’d pretend to be incredible golfers, food critics, psychiatrists, dancers, actresses, and more. We just made the shit up. We led such exciting lives; we simply waited tables for shits and giggles.
Maggie brought out the best in me: I exuded laughter and joy when I was with her. I am funny, but I was always funnier when I was with Maggie. Always prettier, sillier, happier, with Maggie. That’s what the Beverly boys had never seen before.
Maggie knew that my first husband planned to ask me out before I did. And she knew I shouldn’t marry him before I did. When he proposed, Maggie was the first person I called. Years later after I divorced him, Maggie was the first friend who I called when I eloped with my second husband. If it were a contest for volume, I’d have won. Maggie and others were a bit dismayed that I was on my second marriage when they had not yet experienced their first.
Two marriages, two divorces, and one child later, I can best appreciate how high Maggie’s standards are. I’m not quite sure she knew what she what she really wanted from a man until she found John. The wonderful thing is, it took a friend who knew both of them, and just how special each one is, to recognize that, and introduce them to one another. And when she met John, it clicked. He was the male version of Maggie. They complemented each other perfectly: Live for the day, love the one you’re with, laugh like there is no tomorrow, and be happy and kind.
Maggie’s getting married next year. Twenty four years and two months after we met, after we waited tables at Fox’s, busting our asses, chasing fools who dashed after they dined, drinking too much, staying out too late, running races across the dinner tables at Fox’s, dancing on bars on Western Avenue, singing amateur backup for Howard and the White Boys, making money, paying our bills, looking for our paths, crying when we failed, loving our friends and families and living. We lived. We were in the present. It was a state of mind. It’s taken me decades to return to, and it is bliss. Everyday we choose to make our own ending. Maggie taught me that.
Our friendship was hardly perfect, it could be green with envy and stupidity, conversely, we shared some of the most tender and loving talks. Now I stand in awe of her because she stayed true to herself. She found love. Someone who she can give it to and receive it from. And she glows.
Nearly 24 years later, Maggie met me to practice yoga this morning in Wheaton. Afterward, we headed to Blackberry market, as we dug into our veggie stacks with eggs over mixed greens and tomato jam and a side of potatoes of an array of colors and textures, we simply caught up on life. She savored her latte with almond milk, and I loved my chai latte. We talked for two hours. It was a different scene from the Miller Lite and Michelob of two decades ago, but the two people were much the same.
In the middle of this morning’s yoga practice, I said to Maggie, “I am sweating my ass off,” to which she giggled and smiled. It was the same silly laugh and the warm happy smile that I first experienced when we first met. I immediately knew she would be my friend. I didn’t know then, what I know today. Just how wonderful a person she really is.
There are these moments in our lives when a person comes into it, presented like a perfectly wrapped present, with a tag reading, “Enjoy this gift. Love, God.” And that is what Maggie was, and remains. A constant source of laughter, love, and friendship.
I’ve known Maggie now for more than half of my life. I hope to be blessed to have her steadfast presence throughout the remainder. Her friendship is a precious and priceless gift, a mirror image of her.