“How did the cheerleading try-outs go, Tess?” her mother asked.
“I think I did well…and I made a new friend.”
“You know I have been trying to do a jump-split. I saw a girl who was doing it perfectly, and I asked her for help. She found the mistake I was making, and after that, they were easy.”
“That was especially generous since the two of you were both competing for places on the cheerleading team. Who is she?”
“Becky Clinton. She’s new in the school, very nice, tall, athletic, pretty, and Black or African-American or whatever we are supposed to say.”
Both girls made the cheerleading team, although Becky’s parents later had her quit to spend more time on her studies. They emphasized education for all three of the Clinton children. They had even held Becky back a year before starting elementary school, too, so she was older than average when she graduated, near the top of her class, as did Tess.
Becky’s parents emphasized career goals for her. “Keep your eye on the ball,” her dad said, and he did not mean the basketball, football or baseball in use by the school teams for which the girls would be cheering, but keeping focused on the goals of education and the career opportunities a good education would enable. For a minority student, excelling in school might prove to be very important.
Becky’s talents and Tess’s were somewhat different, as were their interests, but they were to remain best friends throughout middle school and high school. They were affectionately called “salt and pepper” by some of their buddies, because they were different but similar and went together so well. “Variety is the spice of life” and the two spiced each other’s life.
Each was happy for the successes of the other, without jealousy. They did not expect nor require each other to be the same. “Play the cards you are dealt,” Mr. Williams urged, “go with your strengths, strengthen your weaknesses.” Becky’s parents welcomed Tess and Tess’s parents welcomed Becky, valuing their friendship.
If the girls could have seen into the future, they would have found that they were still friends fifty years after graduation. Becky went to a religious college in Georgia and then got her Master’s Degree in Education from a college in Michigan, while Tess went to a local community college and then became a nurse, a profession she maintained until retirement. One became a mother; the other did not. Both women cared for their elderly mothers at home. They never lost touch with each other.
Becky’s generous help that first day provided the spark that kindled a life-long warm relationship. “You get only one chance to make a good first impression,” her mother would say. This held true. For the pair, it was nearly love at first sight and stayed that way despite the ups and downs of their marriages and careers.
Some lives, like some dishes, are best when spiced with both salt and pepper.
From our series of 50 instructional stories for young readers.