I still remember getting the phone call with her name. I was on a break at my job at Blockbuster, my mom had opened the letter from my new college – and it contained the name of my new roommate and dorm room. I was going to be spending my freshman year on the 11th floor of an 11 story building with a stranger named Rebecca.
We exchanged emails throughout the months leading up to the start of our collegiate career. (It was last century, but we still had the archaic email technology.) Each and every day of the summer, someone reminded me, “Remember – you don’t need to be best friends with this individual. You just need to tolerate her for one single school year.
On move-in day we discovered each other in the hallway. “Are you Rebecca,” I stared. “Yes. Are you Patricia,” she questioned in return? We set about arranging our room, my father puttering about building a bunk bed and moving bookshelves. “Your new roommate is very quiet,” he observed later in the day. “No, Gustavo,” corrected my mother. “She just can’t understand a word you say.” (GrampaStavo has a rather thick Italian accent).
And then I stood in front of the building, watching my parents drive away. I lived alone for the first time in my life; the only person I knew was someone I’d exchanged a few emails with. She seemed nice enough. But remember – I didn’t need to be great friends with her, I just needed to tolerate her for one year.
Back upstairs we awkwardly stared at each other a bit more. Finally Rebecca broke the ice and asked if I was interested in accompanying her to the dining hall for our first dinner as college kids. By the end of the meal, we were chatting like old friends. (Advice – emailing your future roommate gives you a great background to go off of when you get where you’re going.) By the end of the year, we were thick as thieves. She’d pile my laundry in the closet to avoid the “trails” I made for myself; I’d make her eat a bag of pretzels before any argument commenced in case it was just low blood sugar making her cranky.
We were both 17, the youngest kids on the floor. Neither of us were theatre majors (yet, I’d become one later), but we’d indicated that particular pastime as an interest on our personality form. (I think colleges match roommates by hobby and height.) Becca’s mom had warned her that theatre people were weird, but I’m glad she marked the checkbox anyway. We pulled one all-nighter together – the two of us calling our educator moms at 6 a.m. to say good morning in a fit of giggles before we finally passed out.
Birthdays were always a big deal in our room. When I got flowers on my birthday, Becca proudly marched them down the hall proclaiming, “We got roses!!!” Sophomore year, when her birthday morning arrived, I think I may have rolled over and mumbled “happybirthday” before collapsing into sleep’s warm embrace. Becca was definitely a little hurt – she’d even gone to the trouble of circling the date on all of our calendars. But the moment she headed out the door for work, our little gaggle of girlfriends leapt into action. We decorated the room with flowers and cards (but made sure not to include any balloons) and placed a giant bow on her aerodynamic new desk chair. You didn’t think we’d really forget her birthday, do you?
Senior year we proudly stood in front of the Communications department and argued our joint thesis project together. We were both 21 and getting ready to move on to the next stage of our lives – the one where we played grownup.
In 2006, she got married and I was there. In 2007, on her one-year anniversary, I got married and she was there. In 2009, she had a little girl. I couldn’t wait to meet the newest member of our family. When I announced I was pregnant in 2010, she immediately demanded to see the ultrasound photos of her nephews.
During my hospital lockdown, we once again began exchanging emails as she sent me amusing anecdotes to keep my sprits up. And this Thanksgiving our families celebrated together, thankful for so much – especially friends who are family.
Today, Auntie Beeeca (nickname derived from GrampaStavo’s inability to correctly pronounce or spell her name) is 30. For someone I just had to tolerate for nine months, I’m awfully glad it was her. I’m truly lucky to have a friend like her.
Happy Dirty 30, Auntie Beeeca! Party like a rockstar. And here’s to our masquerade as grownups.