I met Laura on my first day of 4th grade in Jos, Nigeria. My family had just moved to Jos from Los Angeles—quite the culture shock, I assure you—and we arrived a few weeks after school had started. So when I joined the class, everyone else had already started to make friends. We’d arrived in our new town on Saturday, and over the weekend before that Monday, I had started playing with a few of the girls on the compound. Because I had those initial friends, I suppose I did not pay Laura the attention she deserved until months later.
To be honest, I don’t have many memories of Laura from that far back. She lived 20 minutes away from me (driving) in a different part of town, and I did not get to visit her home very often. Our brothers were in the same 7th grade class and became friends, so perhaps we did some things together that year. I do have a photo of Laura, Ruth Arrowsmith, and me showing off a project we had worked on together for Miss Lewan’s social studies class that year.
The next year we were definitely spending more time together. I remember getting in serious trouble once in 5th grade because I had gone to Laura’s house after school to work on a social studies project for Mrs. Ellis’s class—without permission. Laura’s house didn’t have a phone, so my parents had no way to reach me without driving out to pick me up. OK, Laura’s house did have a phone, even a working phone, but people kept stealing the phone line—the actual physical wire. No lie. Not until mobile phones became popular in the 2000s did we really have a reliable way to reach anyone in her household.
At the end of 5th grade, all three of my neighbor agemates moved away, one to Australia and the other two to the U.S. So when 6th grade rolled around, I started spending a lot more time with Laura and with Tammy, my new neighbor. The three of us became inseparable. I have several photos of us from that year, but my favorite is from Crazy Dress-Up Day. We were pretty silly.
Things changed between Tammy and me over the next few years, as I had to return to the U.S. in the middle of 6th grade and was there for a year. Life in Jos moved on without me, and when I got back, all of my closest friends were in the other 7th grade class. The rest of middle school was hard. I often felt left behind from the group of girls I’d had sleepovers with since we were 9. But I spent more time with Laura, until we were again inseparable.
From that point on, Laura has been my encourager, supporter, confidant, sister, and friend. I lived with her family for three months when we were 16, and her family is my second family. Her father baptized me and officiated at my wedding. If anything happened to my mother—God forbid—Laura’s mom would serve as my mom.
La has seen me through depression, excitement, the deaths of mutual loved ones, middle school, high school, college, marriage, ups, downs, ins, and outs. And every time we’re together, it’s like we’ve never been apart. We’ve laughed together, cried together, been crazy together, fought together, and always ended up being better off for it.
But it’s not just how much I love La and am glad to be part of her extended family. I am proud of her beyond words. She has known since she was 16 that she wanted to be in the medical field. We debated about becoming nurses for awhile after we’d volunteered as dental assistants for a visiting dentist. But we also spent a whole summer (and other vacations) shadowing doctors in the hospital, and I think La knew from the beginning that she wanted to be a medical doctor. She worked her tail off in college but had a hard time getting into m edical school with everything else going on. But she didn’t give up. She persevered, becoming an EMT and then a paramedic, all while studying hard to get into medical school.
Laura did get accepted into medical school and joined the Navy. Today she turns 31, and in May she will graduate from medical school with her Doctorate of Osteopathy and start working as a licensed doctor in a family medicine residency program with the U.S. Navy. It has been a long, hard road. But Laura has always been a hard worker and one who perseveres. I am so immensely proud of her persistence, her positive attitude, her accomplishments, and through it all her ultimate trust in God.
I love you, La! I know we are far away and don’t get to see each other much, but I thank God for you and all we have been through together. Here’s to your 31 beautiful years and to another 21 years of friendship!
Being silly at O’Hare airport