matt.jpg Summer makes me think of many things, but most of all it makes me think of my best friend, Matt. We met in fourth grade, sitting across from each other in Mrs. Bauhaus' class, coloring a generic black and white outline of a sun. I, the teacher's pet, was filling in the white space with a gloriously soft yellow. Staying inside the lines, of course. I was concentrating, the tip of my tongue pressing diligently against my upper left canine tooth (as it continues to do today whenever I take anything really seriously).
"My sun is a lunatic!"
We knew each other already, of course, but just then, as he held up his sun, complete with crazy green hair and bloodshot eyes, I fell in love. It sounds crazy (like the sun), but it's true.

Matthew and I became best friends. Everything was about running and hiding and seeking and finding and playing and laughing and enjoying our youth. Being ten years old seems so far away. But when I'm with Matt I feel my heart start skipping like I'm that young again. Simple, that was our friendship.

Today I had a terrific memory. Freshly cut grass clung to my wet toes. Matt and I skipped through the sprinklers, our white shirts stretched against our skin. Youth pushed us in and out of the white, wonderful stinging spray. We were beautiful. I spun with my hands straight out, letting the droplets of silver swirl off of my fingertips in concentric circles.

At the time I thought Matt looked exactly like Tom Cruise in Top Gun. He pretended to hate it, teasing me right back. But he loved me. Probably because I didn't scream and run when I saw a bug, like the other girls did. Or maybe it was because I could beat him in a race, or in tetherball. We stuck together.

Of course, I was nursing a baby crush on the kid. Ten years old though I was, I knew the difference between boys and girls. I also knew that life wouldn't be the same without him. But I didn't tell him what I felt; I didn't even know how to say it aloud. Little did I know that he felt the same way about me.

Over the years we did everything. Tennis, swimming, baseball... we watched movies, took long walks, played long uneventful games of Truth or Dare.

And yes, he was my first kiss. Our freshman year of high school we went to see Lost In Space at the theater that was down the street from where we lived. Afterwards he walked me home, something he always did. The evening fell lightly over the trees, darkening Joaquin Murieta (our street). Beneath a street lamp, in the grey-yellow circle of light, we stopped. A perfect first kiss that tasted like rootbeer, that was mine.

But we were always just friends, perfect friends. We didn't have issues (although he never liked anyone I dated, and vice versa... shocker!). Even after I moved to Livermore, after he was no longer the boy next door, we remained close. He even wrote me letters! What a good guy.

On my sixteenth birthday, the day after junior prom, Matt showed up at my house for my party. I was wearing my red prom dress to church that morning, so when I swung the front door open to greet my buddy... his jaw dropped. It was the first time he'd ever seen me in a dress! I don't mind saying that he liked what he saw. But to this day he still manages to picture me in a pony tail, shorts and sneakers, knees scratched and fingernails dirty.

When I met Jon, Matt knew something was different. He made an effort to meet Jon and to get to know him. I've never been so proud. Even though there had always been a hope in the back of both our hearts, in the minds of people we knew, that we two would have a future together... Jonathan Camp had taken my heart completely. He was my future. And Matt was wonderful about the whole thing.

Matt now lives in Arizona, working hard and being near his Mom's family makes him happy. But he misses California and, of course, me. He did make it out for my wedding last year, which meant the world to me. And he made a valiant attempt to catch the garter... but our pal Jeremy kept his record alive and snagged it before Matt could get close. How many is that now, Jeremy?

After the wedding I said goodbye to so many people, but I'll never forget saying it to Matt. He was so proud of me. He loved me so much. When we hugged, he squeezed me close like a brother would do to his sister. Eleven years of friendship had seen us sweep through all the stages, braving shadows and rising to the right moments. That memory, just before I grabbed my husband's hand and drove off into our future... the one I shared with my best friend, is precious to me.

Jonathan is truly my best friend now. No one knows me like my soul mate for life. But nothing will ever unravel or diminish the twelve years Matt and I have. And one of the amazing things about Jon is that he appreciates that. Friendship is golden, and we cherish the relationships we forged before we met each other. Matt, like me, admires Jon for that and for many other things.

Today I called Matt to wish him a happy 23rd birthday. We talked for an hour. And in the end we both wished we could go back to the tree-lined avenue where we first met, to dance in the sprinklers, to sit in the back of his dad's parked pick-up (the orange one with the slightly rusted tailgate), to drink Dad's Rootbeer and skip pebbles down the street, to toss popcorn playfully at one another during a movie... to find that simple time.

Happy Birthday, Matthew Jonathan Carlisle Planer.