32 years ago, my life forever changed. I started my first day of first grade eager and excited. I was assigned to Miss Fayne’s class. She was famous for her high heels and matching outfits. A young stylish teacher: my year was off to the perfect start! I was dressed in my favorite ensemble, bangs perfectly combed, ready to meet new friends and learn how to read. When I gathered on the playground, I noticed a new face. A tiny girl with long red hair (bangs similar to mine), sparkling blue eyes, and the sweetest smile was staring back at me. She politely introduced herself as Noel. How unique. Noel stood out from the rest that day, and has been doing so ever since.
Our friendship blossomed quickly. I learned that Noel moved to Kearny from the shore and did some childhood acting and modeling. I vividly remember watching her reenact her old commercials for the class and thinking she was so “cool.” She was so warm and inviting. I particularly looked forward to our daily lunches in the cafeteria, where I would eat all her round Doritos and homemade chocolate chip bars, courtesy of her talented mom.
As the years carried on, our friendship grew deeper and stronger. At a young age, we lost a very close fellow classmate to a horrific tragedy. This devastating and challenging time bonded us on a level most 9 year olds could never comprehend or fathom. If Noel wasn’t by my side, it would have been harder to heal and accept. Her compassion, loyalty, and nurturing demeanor made me feel safe and loved.
Easter desserts, racing over boys, infamous walks down Kearny Avenue, movie nights, her painful driving skills (even she will attest to this), and thousands of late night phone conversations encompass just a small portion of our larger than life friendship. My adolescent years were memorable and jovial because Noel was my friend.
Our jokes, memories, laughs, heartfelt moments, and adventures are endless. We have endured all of life’s ups and downs together. I watched Noel go on to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. Her hard work and dedication to honing her craft was motivating to watch. She is one of the most remarkable teachers on the planet! Her work friends rave and boast endlessly about their beloved colleague, and her passion and sincerity towards education and her students is inspiring.
Noel channels that same passion and compassion into her personal life as well. She is a devoted wife, mother, daughter and friend. She has more friends than anyone I know and works hard to maintain and nurture each relationship equally. She would undoubtedly take the shirt off her back for a complete stranger and strives to bring happiness to everyone she meets. Some may be thinking, is this friend really human?! Can someone be that genuine and good? I assure you she is real, and I am beyond grateful to call her my best friend, my sister.
My only complaint: her tardiness. The girl hasn’t been on time a day in her life! Hey, they say opposites attract. She’s the consummate procrastinator, while I am proactive. Ironically enough, we compliment and support each other sweetly and unconditionally.
On New Year’s Eve she turns 37. I can’t believe we have blown out 32 years of candles together. Each aging year gets harder to accept and life’s challenges overwhelming at times, but one thing remains constant: our friendship. Cheers to 37 graceful and beautiful birthdays, an unwavering and solid friendship, and many more memories ahead. May 2018 be your best year yet! To find one real friend in a lifetime is a fortune; to keep her is a blessing. Noel, we are truly blessed!