Remember when you had a best friend (maybe you still do, no judgement)? Their title had been put in place just to remind all of your other friends that there was a bar set and an expectation to meet. Or possibly like me you had 6 best friends, which were really all the friends I had in the world. Every one was a best friend partially due to my own need for diplomacy but also because the friends I had all contributed something amazing to my life. So how could I choose just one "best" friend?
One of those incredible women was Sheri. She came into my life unexpectedly, you could even say stealth-like. In the rule of teenage angst and politics we were destined to be enemies (we had both dated the same guy). However Sheri could win anyone over with her joie de vivre and when she called me one day asking to go to coffee, I could hardly say no. Little did I know that it would be the beginning of one of the most influential friendships I would ever have.
Sheri and I became fast friends, much to the dismay of our commonly held ex-boyfriend. We did not attend the same high school so we frequently met at a local coffee joint called The Purple Turtle. We would order coffee and dessert while flirting with the creepy bartender in hopes of getting a shot of something in our coffee (we would never do that!!). The Purple Turtle was just like those smoky lounges in the movies with couches, live music and sometimes poetry. Sheri and I would sit for hours telling one another about our childhoods, our dreams and aspirations or sharing some darkly shrouded secret. It was so easy to love Sheri, regardless of her true feelings, I always felt loved in return without judgement or criticism. There were no politics in our relationship, not in the early days anyway and those were the days that shaped the friendship.
In that coffee joint we dreamed up the idea of going to Montreal for March Break. We were both going to be 18 by March that year (yep do the math from the title and now you know that I am not as young as I look!) and with the drinking age in Quebec being 18 - we could party like it was 1999 (although it was only 1994). I warned Sheri that my parents would never go for it and she promised that if I could not go she would not go with anyone else and so we asked our parents. I still wonder to this day if my parents and Sheri's parents had conferred before answering us regarding our trip but I was overwhelmingly surprised to be told that I could indeed go. For the next couple of months Sheri and I spent most our time planning our vacation. We booked the VIA rail tickets, found a hotel and planned places we wanted to check out while we were there.
Getting to Montreal was fairly uneventful. What I remember most was changing trains in Toronto and helping Sheri to lug some of her medical equipment between trains - it was f***ing heavy! Sheri had Cystic Fibrosis and her oxygen machine had to weigh about 50 pounds ~luckily it had wheels but I may have bitched and moaned about its weight for the next 5 hours as we made our way to our destination. Our hotel was filled with young people, mostly from Ontario and within minutes of checking in Sheri was socializing with people in the halls, getting room numbers and finding out where we would be going that night. She made a friend everywhere she went!
I would love to document the whole trip here, I think there are things I have long since forgotten but there are some moments that stick out for me. Of those memories, is one night, when Sheri and I went to the Peel Pub. It was full probably over capacity and I remember the seating as long wooden tables with equally long benches so you were elbow to elbow with the stranger next to you. Sheri and I started out simply enough with one drink each. Sheri was talking and flirting with people at our table. She said something about being able to stomach anything and so someone bought Sheri a Prairie Fire. I remember refusing the one bought for me (I could not stomach anything) and so she threw both shots back and asked the waitress for another. When it arrived she tossed it back too. The group around us started to cheer and clap. I think she may have had a few more and the crowd around us seemed to grow. Sheri told the waitress that she could make a sound like a siren and then she did and oh man was it loud! By now it felt like the whole bar was chanting Sheri's name and so she sounded the siren one more time before retiring the sound effects for the night. I don't believe we bought a drink all night and when we left that night the whole bar said goodbye to Sheri. She really could attract people. Now I will not disillusion you, she may have been able to stomach all that spice but I had to carry her (fireman style) to the waiting cab.
The other memory from that trip involved all the people we met at the hotel. At any given moment there would be 5-10 people in our room talking, drinking and making plans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the bar, whatever. I have pictures of people posing with Sheri and I and frankly I don't remember their names but they all wanted to be in our room, hanging with us. We talked with people from across Canada. I think we may have made promises of visiting people from B.C. all the way over to the Maritimes. I don't think we bought any drinks while we were there and in our room there was always someone sharing a drink with us (it was truly a celebratory atmosphere). Sheri and I had invitations for every evening that we were there and I don't remember a dull moment.
I said that this March Break is the 20th anniversary of the best week I ever had. Twenty years ago, for the first time I was given the freedom to try out my life as an adult. I took healthy risks and had an incredible amount of fun with total strangers and with my best friend. More than that, for one whole week I got to be joyfully close to a joie de vivre that I had never known up until that point in my life. In honesty it was a spark that I have not come across again and today is a good day to remember that.