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I lost one of my oldest best friends at the end of September. Misty and I met in the 4th grade at Woodstock School when she and a group of students transferred from a small private school which was closing. I was probably one of the most shy and withdrawn kids on the planet at the time, but not Misty. She was larger than life, despite being tiny, and was naturally a jokester.
I was the chubby, dorky, sensitive little girl with a fear of making friends because of my crazy mom. Misty and the kids from the private school seemed so cool. You can imagine a fat kid’s surprise when what seemed like the cool kid seemed to befriend me. She walked right up to me and just started talking to me. If my memory serves me correctly, I said something stupid or socially awkward and we both laughed and pretty much formed a “friendship.”
We were always together after that. Sleepovers, weekend goings on, whatever kids were getting into, Misty and I got into it together. I kind of melded into her family, effortlessly. They accepted me as one of their own.
It wasn’t long before my mother had one of her episodes, and my anxiety hit red levels. I was sure Misty would stop being friends with me just as everyone else always had once she witnessed it or learned about it. Just like every other friendship I had in my young life, my mother would do something completely insane, or show her manic state around them and she would just stop talking to me.
She did her thing, acted crazy, began tossing all our groceries, and I went into damage control mode. From a very young age, I would sense her beginning to slip into a schizophrenic state and I would start putting back food stashes so we would have some food left. I hid chicken soup, crackers, spaghetti O’s and things I or my siblings could cook after she decided to throw everything away claiming some conspiracy to poison us had begun. I was at Misty’s one weekend getting an escape from the insanity, but they didn’t know yet. It was time for me to go home, and I was doing everything I could to postpone it. For one, I had to leave the normalcy of her mother, to return to the complete chaos of mine. Secondly, I was pretty sure my days with a friend were numbered once it came out.
My mom made a call to her mom and said something absolutely crazy if I am not mistaken or something happened which cued them into what my home life was currently like. Instead of bolting, Misty came up with an excuse for me to stay there. Although I didn’t recognize the incredible quality of her actions then; in hindsight, she did it in such a mature way. It wasn’t a “Look what I did” moment, but in a protective “She needs to stay to help me” way. At such a young age, her heart was so huge, she created a reason for me to stay so it wouldn’t be me begging for help. That was who she was.
She was protecting me. She didn’t stop talking to me, or stop being my friend. She jumped in and went into protective mode, as a true friend will do. Through high school, we had ups and downs, but when my mom went off the deep end, her house was my safe place. Her parents got me to school, made sure I had some bits of normalcy and consistency in my life, and created a safe place for me to ride out my mom’s struggle with mental illness. Misty with her tiny body and frame would beat someone’s ass who tried to humiliate me using my mom against me.
She became a sister to me. Someone after she died, said she was always “sweet.” Misty wasn’t sweet. She had a heart of pure gold, but would cut you... literally. One time I pissed her off and she cut me with a pair of scissors. We laughed for years about it. It was one of our crazy friend stories. She was fiercely protective of the ones she loved, and really anyone who couldn’t protect themselves. Misty Jane Austein was one of those rare souls who would despite her own broken heart and being exhausted from fighting her own demons, would jump in to help you slay yours. She was a true friend in the most honest of terms.
Rest in peace, beautiful friend.
May 7th 1976-September 26th 2018