For those of you expecting a full on review of "Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince", let me just tell you that I'm breaking my breaking of the self-imposed rule that says I will wait a few days before reviewing a movie... simply put, I loved the movie, and its my favorite of all the Potter flicks, but there's much more to it... but to properly assess and discuss, I have to discuss the movie and the book, so I figure I'll give a few days for people to see it, so I won't be giving spoilers.
Plus, I had a Rebecca Mandolin Sighting.
The Happiest Place in the Mall is a treasure trove of rekindling, by the way. I've seen dozens of faces that I've not seen in years, sometimes in the double digits. Micke Arant, Jaime Echols, Julie Echols, Jason Howell, Jeremy & Crystal Jones and so on, names that won't mean much to you, Coffee Drinker, but names that each carve out memories and instances, sometimes small, sometimes large, in my years of living.
Zipping around at The Happiest Place in the Mall, as I do on a daily basis, doling out magic for this person and that, providing the best 30 minutes of the day for some lucky guest. This is a special week as its Buy One Get One Free on the plush--come in and purchase a plush animal, be it off of the mountain, or one of the big ones, or the mini bean bag plush or even the soft Princess dolls and you get one free!! (if you think that was plug for our store then... you'd be right)
I'm straightening as I go, of course, and am already banking the little experiences--good and stupid--with guests that make the day so interesting (I'll probably end up writing a second volume to one of my most popular posts, "Happy Times") and I work my way to the backstage door, probably headed back to grab a couple of Mater die cast cars to go on the rack.
There's a young woman kneeling over some Hannah Montana water bottles, her face obscured by the mane of thick hair surrounding her head. I stop... well, I don't stop, I really just slow down long enough to say understandably as I move, "Don't forget, all the Hannah Montana, High School Musical and Camp Rock merchandise is an additional 40% off the red tagged price!" (yes, yes, another plug. what are you waiting for? go get you a Sharpay swimsuit for only $8.99 after discount!)
The young woman freezes for a second, slowly turns her head up to me and says, "d$". My eyes widen, my jaw drops and I utter out, "Mandy Stewart." She leaps up, I gasp and we hug for at least ten, maybe twenty seconds, with both of us sputtering out phrases like "Oh my gosh!" and "So good to see you!" and "I can't believe this!".
There are just some people in this world that just... well, they make you happy. Your hard pressed to find fault with them, you have nothing but thoughts and experiences with them that make you smile, and when you see them again after so long without, its as if for a few minutes, the world is just right. Things make sense. Your friend is here in front of you, and for the next little while, maybe a few sentences worth, maybe an hour over lunch, things are just good. My friend McQ is like this. My buddy Mikey is like this. And so is Rebecca Mandolin.
We met in the fall of 1993--forgive me if you've read this already, I might have told this story in one of the previous 489 posts--in English class. We were sitting close to the end of the long table in Honors Freshman English, being taught by a nice blond lady who had hairy armpits. No seriously. Like, she was married to this Brit, and I guess she felt as if she needed to play the role of Brit Wife (do they do that over there? I thought hairy pits was a French thing?) and she liked to wear sleeveless shirts, and when she lifted up her arms in discussions or animated conversations, whoop there it is. Rebecca Mandolin always had a faceful of it.
I personally thought that she was gorgeous, but I was never attracted to her. Funny how that worked, really, as there were lots of guys who were. Maybe that's why we were such fast friends, because I had no ulterior motive. It did make me look good, though, that I had good looking chick friends. Maybe it was also that we both had small town upbringings, being tossed onto this campus and were just looking for nice people to hang out with. Whatever the reason, d$ and Rebecca Mandolin were friends.
Actually, I was attracted to the blond girl who sat across from Rebecca Mandolin and I, Ginny Kochen from Wisconsin. That's a whole other story for another day, but Ginny and I didn't work out. Discovered that Rebecca Mandolin was roomies with another person I had just met, Miranda Bryant, and then we all got to know and hang out with some other people we met and so on.
d$ and Rebecca Mandolin then, having both just turned 21. This is 1996 at a FH/Alpha Gam. The Lovely Steph Leann made me sell that tie at the yard sale a few weeks ago.
Time goes by, as do friends who suddenly aren't around and become acquaintances instead, or people you barely know who come into your life to become pretty good people to be around and such. Miranda and I were pretty tight for a while, then I became good friends with Labett and Adrienne, then eventually I met my best mate Wookiee and... well, you get the drift. I friend hopped, no sense in denying it, at least until around 1995 or 96, when I got involved in our BCM and actually made some friends I could keep.
But even though we weren't talking every day, even though we weren't around each other all the time, Rebecca Mandolin and I never stopped being friends. She introduced me to this awesome redhead, Allison Hodnett (which also didn't work out, thanks to John Glasscock... again, another story), and encouraged it on while it almost started. We had lunch at Los Pericos in Troy from time to time. She would give me the truth that I didn't want to hear when I was, say, hitting on Greta Gaskin ("Seriously, d$, that was totally a line you gave her... and pretty lame too") or telling me about Indya Lawless ("She asked me about you, d$, and I managed to get her number for you") or letting me know I blew it with Rebecca Miller ("You know, you need a divine do-over, really") and sometimes, she would do her own confiding in me about her own set of romantic issues ("Yeah, so... here's what happened... and I feel pretty stupid about all of this. What do you think, d$?").
We both rushed about the same time, Rebecca Mandolin headed towards Alpha Gamma Delta, and I toward FarmHouse, and we would catch up with each other over Fraternity/Sorority gatherings, or pledge swaps or Greek Week, always with a big hug and a big smile.
Eventually, she found her boo, a big gruff guy named Peter who played baseball. Somehow, someway, that final year of Troy State for both of us, we moved different directions and missed each other somehow.
I found Rebecca Mandolin's email address, and contacted her around, I dunno, 2000 or so, and she responded, and again, we lost touch. Finally, she joined the rest of the free world and got on Facebook earlier this year, and I was excited about it, leaving her a wall post that simply said, "Its about time". She responded with, "I am technologically challenged. I had not checked my hotmail for 2 months. I had 500 messages. It is so good to hear from you (slightly less good to see those pictures, although the formal picture is priceless)."
And after that, didn't hear from her again. Not that I tried much, mind you, I'm not stalking out Rebecca Mandolin, but I never saw her online, so we never got around to chatting about anything.
And then today... here she was. She laughed, ruffled the side of my head with her fingers and said, "Oh goodness, look at all the grey you've collected." She introduced me to her son, who is like, 8, and her daughter is 5, and running all over the store. Her husband Peter shook my hand and nodded, then walked back to the front of the store in a typical, "Okay, I'm done, I'm ready to get out of here" fashion.
We stood for about five minutes and discussed the old days, with me bringing up a few names that made her laugh and shudder and she doing the same for me. I gushed about The Lovely Steph Leann, and we discussed kids and when we'll get our own. I gave her this web address and my email, and told her she had no excuse not to find me, and even that The Lovely Steph Leann and I would be in her neck of the woods in August, and a Sunday lunch before we head home is in the realm of possibilities.
To be truthful, I might live to be 84 years of age, and I may see Rebecca Mandolin once, maybe twice more ever... or we might become friends again, at least, virtually anyway. I always long for people from my old days to meet people from my current, notably The Lovely Steph Leann, if only to show to the old friends how far I've come and how wonderful I have it, and to show The Lovely Steph Leann a glimpse into what I used to be and a small glance of how I became what I did. And maybe they will meet, who knows.
Here's us in 2009, both on the cusp of 34. Personally, I could stand to be a little thinner, perhaps like the earlier pic, but I think she's never looked better.
Here's to you, Rebecca Mandolin, for making my day, and here's to hoping you make another.
Someone called Rebecca Mandolin once by mistake, thinking that was her full name. I think its actually "Reba Mandy" or something country like that... she is from Talladega... anyway, I took to calling her that, just like she called me "Young David" for the longest time, even though I'm a month older than she.