Christianne is my oldest friend. I can hear her now—“Can you clarify that I am not your oldest friend age-wise, but that our friendship is the oldest one in your life?”
Sure, CJS: We’ve known each other since Mrs. Patton’s class in first grade. The class where we churned butter, watched praying mantises mate, and learned to write whole stories. (They were short, even by today’s flash fiction standards.)
Come to think of it, those three activities say a lot about our friendship and why we are friends—doing stuff for ourselves, learning about the perils of mating rituals, and writing. Perhaps some of this happened in Mrs. Armstrong’s second grade class, which was tragically disrupted by Christianne’s move far, far away to Austin, Texas, but let’s just say it all went down in that happier, faraway place known as first grade.
She loves lists! So, here we go…
Top Three Ways First Grade Is Like My Friendship with Christianne Sanchez, or Why She is My Good Friend
by Alison Barker
- Churning butter: We are both do-it-yourself types. Even though I’m the one much more likely to try to make my own vanilla extract (shout out, Jennifer Reese!) both of us are pretty maddeningly independent when it comes to taking the time to engage in new beginnings with the larger plan of creating our own lives the way we want them (Law as a second career, anyone? Check! says Christianne.) or new cities (Oops, I broke up with my lover after moving across the country. Hm. Guess I’ll learn to surf! –Alison) Before you think I’m the only pioneer woman of the two of us, know this: she has been known to buy all the shampoo she’ll need for a year in law school. So.
- Learning about mating rituals (Back then, it was from a safe distance, protected by a glass terrarium. Thanks, Mrs. P.! Wait–what was Mrs. P. trying to tell us with that lesson?!) We learned that love can be a terrifying and shocking business. And that praying mantises are badasses. Though we quickly had to learn about love up front and personal, outside of the confines of the classroom, she’s always been there for me via phone, email, and letter to discuss the wild journey of looking for love. She and I both tend to approach our relationships with an all-or-nothing passion. I’d bet neither of us fully understand people who a) marry solely for money or b) are bored by their partners. Huh? Phoning in a relationship? Does not compute. Every few years, we’ll cross paths by phone or by a surprise realization that we live in the same city, and it always, without fail, seems to be at the exact time we need the other one to help us re-calibrate and pick ourselves up, full of new hope in finding joy with another person. And through it all, my friendship with her taught me to keep a sense of humor about matters (foibles, breakages) of the heart.
- First story writing. When you are in first grade and you write your first stories, you have no idea what any of it means, and the cool thing is, the notion of needing explain stuff to people hasn’t quite set in yet (at least it didn’t with us) and we really wrote with abandon.
About dogs, about cats, about other friends, about strange neighbors, about dogs and cats who wear clothes and pose for modeling agencies. We impersonated savvy marketing campaigns, gossipy advice columnists, and urgent breaking-news headlines.
CJS was my first professional collaborator. We co-founded a small press magazine called Dog Magazine in 1984-ish. My dad had a lot of extra plastic sheets lying around, so we stapled pieces of this clear plastic stuff around each and every cover illustration, and thus, in this way, produced our in-house “glossy.” We spent a great deal of time not only exploring both informative and heart-pounding editorial content (“Does your dog’s breath smell? 5 tips to freshen up that icky odor!” or “The case of the missing squirrel: Wicket’s story”) but also managing advertisements, coupons, and subscriptions to the now-defunct magazine.
CJS didn’t go to school to “be” a writer like me. She went to law school, came home, and wrote her novel. Every day. For a long time. Until she was done. Yeah.
Welcome to Nola Studiola, my old (not old as in your age, just, you know, in my life) friend.
Nola Studiola Question One: What makes you laugh?
My fiance Sterling. He makes up words like “bah.” He yells at me: “Get in the truck, you’re scarin’ the kids!” or says inappropriate things. He makes faces at me while I’m trying to sleep. Our dog Silver, who chases me through the house and then body slams me into a wall with his 80-pound weight. Reruns ofThree’s Company and Friends. Modern Family. Louis CK stand up comedy. Funny bloggers like Tyler Durden or recappers on Television without Pity. My friends. They are all so very funny in so many ways. (Some of them are funny because they don’t realize just how funny they really are.) In the awful but true category: puns and LOL kitties.