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The Finer Things/Stacey Kukkonen

A friendship changed but not lost

April 21, 2012
The Daily Mining Gazette

Nearly every night of the week, my husband's nose is buried in textbooks, engineering paper coats his desk and only the faint sound of calming music escapes his work space.

I desperately want to spend time with him, because to be completely honest, I don't have many friends in the Upper Peninsula. But the only way for Zach to be successful is for me to leave my finger poking and casual conversations at the foot of the stairs, despite the dozens of smiley face text messages he sends from his "man cave."

It's lonely nights when I miss spending with my best friend Deanna and I imagine what we would be doing at that moment. While I absolutely love adulthood, being independent and having the best husband, I constantly miss Deanna, who lives 500 miles away.

I met Deanna in the fifth grade where an instant friendship was born. We were in the same grade and every year that passed, we crossed our fingers to be able to share a homeroom (for which we rarely did). And although members of our group would come and go as we grew up and developed our own interests, Deanna and I were always joined at the hip.

A serious relationship for Deanna in high school had her trying to split time between the boyfriend, friends and after-school activities, like sporting events, but for the most part, we spent a lot of time together.

When it came time to move on to college, she opted for a community college while I went to Central Michigan University.

One year later, Deanna joined me at CMU where we thoroughly kept each other entertained. On school nights, after studying of course, we would watch movies or crazy reality shows. We took advantage of the many amenities Mount Pleasant had to offer that our native Ludington did not.

We ate out too often, spent too much money and slept in too long on the weekends. But I would never trade a minute of it. Freedom was better spent with Deanna, whether it was hiking, leaving our apartment at any time of the night or skipping classes from time to time to meet up for lunch.

We both worked for professors in the same department on campus and were self-supportive.

We weren't those students who spent every weekend partying by any stretch of the imagination (I bet other students thought we were pretty weird).

Rather, we would hole up in our apartment and play video games or bake. Call us boring, but we had a blast - especially when we would venture out in the middle of the night to buy hair dye so Deanna could generously let me experiment on her hair.

A summer apart was one of the loneliest for me, and when I graduated, she moved to the U.P. too, because she is truly like my sister. When another year passed, she moved on, as adults should. She is now settled into a fantastic life in Ludington.

But I knew nothing would be the same from the minute she drove off that day in May. I just stood in her room and let hot tears run down my face.

It was time. We weren't going to spend the rest of our lives living together. Even little girls grow up eventually.

Certainly, I didn't take a moment of it for granted.

These days, during trips home, I make time for Deanna. It's vital to keep that relationship alive.

Sure, there are regrets - for me, it was taking the advice from wedding books and brides who say, "Don't ever have friends in your wedding party, because you never know what your friendship will be like in the future."

If I could go back in time, I'd make Deanna my maid of honor, where she truly belonged, because she tried just as hard to keep our friendship what it still is today. She has become a part of my family and we invite her to every reunion and family get-together.

I just hope there are others out there who have a friend like Deanna - a rare gem. And in my eyes, she'll always be that 10-year-old girl who changed my life forever.

Stacey Kukkonen can be reached at



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