Today is the 65th birthday of my friend, Euphemia, a girlfriend since I was 17. Despite a name that sounds like a kidney disease, there are at least three generations of women in her family with "Euphemia" embedded somewhere in their monikers. Fortunately, none of them uses it except for signing important documents.
Euphemia's name actually came in handy when I was getting married in the Catholic Church. Since my Episcopal background was already seriously suspect, I was worried that the priest wouldn't approve of my pregnant, Protestant matron of honor -- until she told him her name was Euphemia. He looked up, smiled, and said, "Oh, after Saint Euphemia." Why, uh, yes.
Euph and I met on the first day of our freshmen year in college. She had recently moved into the room across the hall from me. I had just met my roommate, who was not the outgoing, attractive person I'd hoped. Plus she smelled odd.
To hide my disappointment and escape the odor, I stepped into the hall. Across the way there was a larger, brighter room, where someone was standing in front of the mirror fixing her hair. My first impression of the Euphmeister was that she looked like a poster girl for Aryan supremacy, She stood almost as tall as I was, with nearly white blond hair and blue eyes the size of dessert plates.
Except for our height, we didn't
look anything alike. She was Germanic perfection. I was Olive Oyl. To be fair, I had a nodding resemblance to a Jane Austen
heroine when the humidity wasn't too high, with my pointy English features, naturally curly
auburn hair and brown eyes.
I walked in to say hello, hoping to make a friend, since it was clear that my assigned roommate wasn't going to be an option. It was a done deal from the moment we introduced ourselves. Why? Perhaps because she too had suffered a disappointing introduction to her own roommate, a short, pale, almost sickly, and disastrously acne-faced person who was devoid of personality.
But mostly I think we bonded because she and I had the same sense of humor. Not the subtle, sophisticated humor you might expect from reading my entries here. But something more dramatic and theatrical, with big eyerolls and a penchant for pratfalls. Yep. She was just like ME. Think Carol Channing meets Carol Burnett. I had definitely found a new best friend.
We spent the rest of that first semester plotting ways to swap out our roommates. It turned out that those two had a lot in common. They were both serious. They were both apparently unconcerned about their appearance or dating, and neither one seemed to notice any peculiar smell. So, in the end, even they thought a roommate switch was a good idea.
Now, here it is, almost five decades and many memories later. One of the reasons I can remember that April 28th is Euphamistic's birthday is that one year she called me up every day for at least a month and whispered into my voicemail, "April 28th, April 28th, April 28th, April 28th." Now that's a good friend.
After five kids between the two of us, plus a husband here and there, a growing pile of grandchildren, a great many Thanksgivings, a few college reunions, and lots of summers on the Jersey shore, one thing remains constant despite the lengthy passage of time.
She's still older than I am.
Happy Birthday, girlfriend.