Last month, I took a long-overdue trip to visit a college friend. She invited me, as she had a dozen times before, but this time, instead of thanking her and declining for any number of reasons, I simply said, “When?”

She was surprised by my answer, as was I. It’s been more than 15 years since I’ve gone to her home, mainly because it requires a flight and I always feel I have other obligations.

But somehow, it was time. Fortunately, she has a daughter just a year older than mine, and our teens get along great. So my girl and I packed our bags, masked up and took our vaccinated selves to visit.

I remember being told during my senior year of high school, “Childhood friends are great, but your college friends are the friends you’ll have for life.” At the time, I wasn’t sure I believed it. But with this friend, also named Kris, it turned out to be true some 35 years later.

On my first day at the University of Maine, I was just getting settled into my dorm room when she walked in the open door without knocking. She didn’t introduce herself and barely looked up from her clipboard, then said, “Do you want to play intramural softball?”

Sizing her up, I quickly decided I didn’t want to get on her bad side.

“Uh … yes?” I answered, sounding afraid.

“Great,” she said, and left in a flash.

I soon learned she lived at the end of the hall. I never heard another word about softball, thank goodness, but before long I was seeing her in the cafeteria, on the quad, in my classes and at the TV lounge and computer lab. (Yes, I’m old enough that we all shared a TV lounge and computer lab.)

She was super smart and beyond funny. I liked to go home on the weekends, and she would catch me up on everything I missed when I returned to campus each week.

Pooling our resources, we shared snacks, laundry money, notes from class, toiletries and even vehicles. Some days, we were responsible young adults, paying bills, going to doctor’s appointments, doing our banking and getting oil changed. Other days, we put Crunchberries up our noses and laughed until we cried.

We worked hard and played harder, eating pizza, studying, goofing off and cursing the cold anytime someone pulled a fire alarm at 2 a.m.
One April Fool’s Day I returned to my room to find every bit of clothing was missing, even my dirty laundry. I found the resident assistant for our floor and made her unlock my friend’s room. When the door swung open, all of my clothes were heaped upon her bed.

As payback, I fetched my marshmallow Peeps, which she despised, and hid them everywhere in her room, and I mean everywhere. I tucked them into her socks and shoes, put a few inside her pillowcase so she’d find them when she went to bed, and even jammed one into an aspirin bottle in the medicine cabinet. She cursed me as she continued to find the sugary treats for weeks, and feared an ant infestation that fortunately never materialized.

We became DJs and created a college radio show, using nicknames so few on campus knew who we were. For the entire school year, we joked live on the air, played our favorite music and hid behind our fake identities. She blasted ABBA and The Violent Femmes, while I played Elton John and the B-52s. We promoted ourselves shamelessly on air, and hyped the show with funny promos and phony public service announcements we created. We enlisted hilarious friends who could do celebrity impressions to call in and make guest appearances. Mainly we were amusing ourselves, and assumed no one was listening to our afternoon antics.

The week before graduation, we held a radio trivia contest, asking listeners to call in with answers to obscure questions about us and the show. All that time, we assumed nobody was listening, which was what allowed us to do the show free of embarrassment and fear.

We did the contest on a lark, expecting dead air and silent phones. But what we learned was that people were listening. When we posed a question and went to commercial break, the phones rang with excited callers wanting to give us the answers. We had fans!

As seniors we watched movies, went to parties, took road trips and cracked the books some more. By the time we were done at UMaine, I think it was done with us. One professor grew tired of the whole lot of us, snapping, “I’m glad you all have a good sense of humor, because you’re never going to make it in the news business.”

Of course, I admitted little to none of this to my daughter, who will be off to college herself in a few short years. Heck, she may even walk the hallowed halls of my alma mater, so I did not want to give her the wrong impression about college life.

As our flight touched down, my phone buzzed. It was Kris, letting me know where her car was idling.

“Be ready for anything,” I warned my daughter. “She probably will have a big cardboard sign with something written on it.”

“What? Why?” my daughter said. “I doubt it, mom.”

“Oh, no, I promise you, she will,” I said. “She’ll pretend she’s a chauffeur and she’ll be holding a sign. I know her.”

We walked out of the automatic doors and into a blast of summer heat, and there she was: a middle-aged woman waving a large piece of cardboard through the window of a black SUV. An inside joke was scrawled in black Sharpie and aimed at me.

“I told you” I sang to my daughter, who was speechless.

Once in the car, we were off to the races, laughing and talking. We finished each other’s sentences, sang snippets of songs, cackled and spoke in a shorthand that made no sense to the girls. Even though they know us as well as anyone, neither saw this side of us.

Back at the airport a few days later, I was tired but happy as we waited to board our flight home.

“Did you have a good time?” I asked my daughter.

“Yes,” she said, “but you know how you sometimes say my friends and I get laughing and too excited and it’s a little too much?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Now I know what you mean,” she said.

And the beat goes on.

Kris Ferrazza is a former reporter, assistant editor, copy editor and columnist with the Courier newspapers. She lives in Waldoboro.