No Mountain Too High This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

August 18, 2011
Amid the lessons on fractions and spelling, I learned something else in elementary school: every girl needs a best friend. There had to be that special girl who handed out cupcakes on your birthday and always chose you first for kickball teams. As a pig-tailed eight-year-old, I agonized over this prerequisite to girlhood happiness. I needed to find a best friend.

I decided on Stephanie, a girl I had known since my diaper days. Actually, Stephanie was my second choice. My first already had a best friend, so I settled for Stephanie. She lived far away (a half-hour, but to a third grader, it seemed like another country) and she didn’t attend my school. But, she loved to play Barbies, our parents were friends, our brothers were friends and we were friends. Stephanie was a fine candidate.

She agreed. We did the best friend thing: buying best-friend necklaces and rings, planning matching outfits and saving the best goody bags for each other. When other girls asked me The Question, I happily responded, “Stephanie is my best friend.”

Lucky for me, Stephanie turned out to be more than a nominal friend. She was my sidekick. We flooded the church grounds together and created mud pies; we collected the largest leaves for handmade brooms; we pretended to be princesses and moms; we climbed the highest trees, sang the loudest songs and teased the peskiest boys.

But, the time came when mud pies and silly songs were set aside for homework and sports teams. The pesky boys transformed into potential boyfriends for whose attention we competed. Though we promised to let nothing ruin our best friendship, we hardly saw each other.

Skiing came to our rescue as our families continued their annual trips to Vermont. Over the years, with Stephanie by my side, I had conquered my first bunny slope, lost my first pink mitten and experienced chair-lift trauma when my hair froze to the bar.

On one trip just a couple years ago, having graduated Snowflake Ski School the year before without broken bones, we felt ready for the black diamond trails. Though I was still more comfortable skiing blue square trails, I would never admit that to our boastful brothers. If they were going to ski the black diamonds, Stephanie and I would be right behind them. Our first test was a steep trail covered with moguls, aptly named Needle’s Eye.

“We can do this,” cheered Stephanie. Every part of my still-intact body said otherwise, but I gave in to her pleading. I was adjusting my skis and looking for the easiest way down when I realized I was alone at the top of the slope. I looked ahead, thought I would faint and started down. My half-parallel, half-pizza pie maneuver failed, and I fell 10 feet from my starting place. Stephanie had made it a bit farther, but she was on the ground, too. We looked at each other from across the dreadful moguls and giggled.

“This is a disaster,” Stephanie yelled.

“Whose idea was this, Stephanie?” I smiled back.

Pushing off with my poles, I rose and ventured further. I traveled a decent distance, but my speed caught up with me. Unable to control myself, I flew off a mogul, lost my skis, took a few rolls and returned to the ground on my behind.

One positive was that I was further down the hill. One big disadvantage: my skis were behind me. Uphill. I was aching, tired, and cold. Scanning the mountain for our brothers, I saw them at the bottom, waving their arms and urging us to hustle. I was doubtful I could make it down alive. I wasn’t even sure I could make it to my skis. I made my decision: I would wait until the ski patrol came to rescue me.

“Jo! Jo, get up,” Stephanie yelled, tugging on my jacket. “We have to get your skis.” She took one look at me, gave me up for defeated and turned around to retrieve my skis herself. Up she went, inching her way. By the time she made it to the closest ski, a man had brought the other one down to me.

Well, I couldn’t complain. I had two skis and a best friend. What could stop us now? Moguls were but bumps in the snow. Ice? I laughed in the face of ice! Ha ha! Poles in hand, I set off once more.

Fifteen seconds later, I was back in the snow.

“Joanne, can you ski this?” Stephanie asked. I shook my head. I was angry with myself, angry with the boys and angry at the ski resort for making the trail, but not angry at her. Stephanie didn’t say a word. Holding her skis, she pushed off with her legs, and down she went on her behind. As I watched this lump of neon yellow attempt to slide down the mountain, I laughed so hard I cried.

I sat down, held my own skis in my arms and also pushed off with my legs. Down I went after my friend. It was difficult to keep up the momentum, but eventually I worked out a technique. Stephanie and I were getting off this mountain. Snow hit our faces, and water seeped through our snow pants, but down we went.
There we were, 15-year-old girls, sliding down a black diamond trail, crying and laughing. Up, down, up, down, across the moguls. As we got closer to the bottom, we could hear our brothers exclaiming, “You girls are insane!”

When people ask me what love means, I always picture Stephanie sliding down that mountain. She didn’t profess her undying devotion to me, she expressed it in her noble, crazy actions. That day, Stephanie not only calmed my nerves, but brought a huge smile to my frozen face. Because of her, I conquered that mountain. And, I continue to overcome my own moguls, knowing there’s no such thing as a right way when I have a best friend beside me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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