When I was a child, my mom stayed home with us. She held those parenting reigns tightly, and I certainly was not allowed to watch anything R-rated. I had a friend, Tara, whose parents both worked full time. The reigns were a bit looser at Tara's, at least during the day while her parents weren't home. It was at Tara's house where I first watched the Steve Martin classic, The Jerk. Tara and I would perform scenes from the movie, acting like complete slapstick goofballs. We loved comedy. To say Tara was very funny is an understatement. She once told me her favorite actor was Steve Martin. I loved those afternoons at her house.
In 6th grade, Tara and I had a disagreement, as kids often do. During lunchtime one day, she'd gone into the girls' bathroom at school only to come out wearing her all her clothes backward. I made some snide remark to a friend who promptly passed it along, getting back to Tara as quick as you can imagine. Our fight that afternoon in the back field behind our school was broken up before it could start by our furious school principal. Parents were called, apologies made, and we all moved on. What I never told Tara was that I really thought it was a hilarious move, very Steve Martin-esque. Everyone thought it was funny. My snide comment had been spoken out of jealousy. I worried too much about how others viewed me, and didn't have the ability to just be funny for funny's sake. I didn't have the guts to wear my clothes backward, and for years I envied her that she did.
This past Sunday morning, I heard the terrible news that Tara had died in her sleep. She leaves a loving husband and children who adore her. She has many friends who loved her boisterous laugh and silly sense of humor. She was only 40 years old. Shocking. Horrible. And while I hadn't seen her in years, we were back in touch via Mark Zuckerberg's magic time-sucking reconnection tool, Liking pictures of each others' kids and commenting on the moments of our lives that had been deigned worthy for social media.
Tonight as I write this, The Jerk is on cable. I'm transported to her family's bonus room with the big TV and the pool table and her dad's UCLA pennants. I can hear her laugh and am reminded to just be silly for silly's sake. And maybe even wear my clothes backward once in awhile.