I think I remember the first time I met Marcia. It was at a picnic. Near a lake. With an outhouse. I think. After that we were together a lot. Not because we were friends, really, but because our parents were friends. Best of friends. They did everything together and we went along for the rides much of the time.
In grade school Marcia hung out with a different crowd than I did. She had a large and gregarious family. I had a small and less outgoing family. She knew how to be around other people. I didn’t.
When Marcia’s family had parties I often dreaded them because I didn’t know how to deal with a crowd of kids. I only knew how to interact with one friend at a time. For years I thought it was Marcia — that she ignored me when she had other friends. But these many years later, I know it was me. I was not a team player.
Anyway, from the day we met and throughout much of my life, Marcia was often a part of the surroundings. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes not so good.
As juniors in high school we both participated in the same exchange program with a grammar school near Leeds, England. Her family hosted Chris and we hosted Vilma. When it was our turn to visit the UK she stayed with Chris’ family and I stayed with Jeremy’s family. (Search “Vilma” on this blog to see what happened with her)
Marcia and I shared a hotel room in London our last night there — not because we requested it, but because our last names were next to each other on the alphabetical list. It turned out fine though. I think I’d become afraid of her, and I realized she was the same Marcia as that first time we met on the picnic. By the lake. With an outhouse.
We finally became friends after high school. We both kept ties with England — me through Jeremy and Marcia through Sue (a friend of Jeremy who stayed with Marcia’s family one summer). We had fun going to bars in Minocqua, Wisconsin, the town near where our families bought summer homes. I also remember taking a hike through the meadow at the top of the hill behind her parent’s lake house. We came back covered in wood ticks and helped each other remove them. We found over 50 ticks between the two of us.
One summer evening I went to a beer garden in Dundee, Illinois with my soon-to-be roommate, Julia. We met a few guys, one of whom reminded me of Christopher Reeve. Being young and single, I boldly invited the Christopher Reeve look-alike and his friends to a party we were hosting that weekend.
The party was a welcome to the USA party for Julia (she was from England — of course). The Christopher Reeve look-alike and friends showed up. In the kitchen, Marcia whispered to me that she knew the Christopher Reeve look-alike from an art class she’d taken and she was interested in him. I suggested that they go sparking. They did. They married not long after. Thank goodness for Wintergreen Life Savers.
The next summer or perhaps the same summer, I finally got my drivers license. To celebrate, Marcia and I rode our bicycles to a local biker bar for a few drinks. When we got there I was dismayed to see that the bar was completely crowded. Not one table or bar stool was empty. Being me, I would have gone home, but I had Marcia with me. Marcia, in her Marcia way, went up to a man sitting alone at a table if he’d mind if we joined him. He said no and we sat down. When Marcia went to talk to people she knew in the bar I began talking to the man at the table. It turned out that I knew of his sister, who died in a car accident the year before. I also knew a neighbor of his. By the end of the evening we’d exchanged phone numbers and I had a feeling that this man was “the one”. We married about 5 years later.
Since moving away from Elgin, I didn’t see Marcia much. Rarely we’d make it a point to get together when I was in town and we’d occasionally be in Wisconsin at the same time. She had 4 kids — the youngest about the same age as my eldest.
About a year ago or so — maybe two — my mom called to tell me that Marcia had ovarian cancer and was going to have surgery the next day. She called back to tell me that the surgery was successful and the doctor had high hopes that with chemotherapy Marcia would be a survivor. I spoke, briefly, to Marcia not long after that. She was in good spirits and hopeful that it would all work out fine.
Marcia was allergic to the first choice, and most effective of chemotherapy drugs and had to take something weaker. My mom continued to give me updates.
Last month my mom called to tell me that the doctor gave Marcia 6 months to live.
She died last night.
I’d been meaning to write to her to tell her how much I was in her debt for “finding” me my husband. That without her boldness I’d not know my two wonderful children. I think I knew I’d never write that note — I really didn’t know how.
I hope she knows.