School is back in session; life lessons begin


Amy Fenster Brown (left) writes, “My BFF Nancy isn’t actually taller than me, I just put her on a pedestal.

Amy Fenster Brown, Special For The Jewish Light

The majority of St. Louis area students are back at school. That routine brings a good amount of order back into families’ lives. While most kids don’t love mornings getting ready and evenings doing homework, structure is actually really helpful to them. 

School time means our kids have a whole lot more book learning crammed into their schedules versus the life learning they had during summer break. For those of us who haven’t been students in many (or very many) years, we’re still learning all the time.  

One big lesson I’ve learned as an adult is that when someone begins a sentence with “no offense,” it’s usually offensive. “Nothing personal” almost always means it’s going to be personal, like: “Nothing personal, but your deodorant didn’t do the job this morning.” Another gem is: “With all due respect.” The comment that follows?  Disrespectful. 

Two of my best school subjects were writing and theater. My knowledge in these areas helped me realize something valuable not too long ago. “The Facts of Life,” “Living Single,” “Sex and the City,” and “The Golden Girls” are all the same TV show. Mind blowing. You’ve got four women with very distinct personality types portrayed almost to excess. Often, you have the smart one, the ditzy one, the funny one and the anxious one. Maybe they have the superhot one, the regular-hot one, the less-hot one and the not-hot-at-all one, who is usually also the funny one. Sometimes, it’s the cynic, the glamour queen, the ingénue and the one who seems to have it all together.  

Closer examination shows that we, the viewers, are a combination of these four women. While I’m mostly a Natalie, I’ve got a healthy dose of Tootie, a chunk of Jo and a smidge of Blair all mixed in. You might be heavy on Sophia with a bit of Dorothy, a touch of Rose and a heaping helping of Blanche, you saucy little devil. 

We each are all of the characters combined, but in different formulas. No matter the show, we all seem to identify the most with the one who seems to have it all together. That’s how Hollywood tricks us. 

Looking back (way back) on my time as an actual student (I’m talking back in the 1900s), I certainly have some highlights. 

One of the best things that ever happened to me in school was meeting my lifelong best friend Nancy. We met at the Lollipop Tree in Mrs. Kettler’s second grade class at Craig Elementary School. One of us said to the other, “Want to be best friends?” and that was it. Seven-year-olds are brilliant creatures. Besties ever since. We’ve had one fight in the past 45 years. It happened in sixth grade, lasted six months, and neither one of us has any idea what it was about. 

Nancy and I both have had additional best friends along the way. You can have more than just one. We have always been each other’s nucleus while having our own other groups of friends, too.  This method of our friendship came about naturally and is the key to our success. We’ve never been jealous of, or competitive with, each other’s friends. Our friendship is like an underwire bra: We provide each other tremendous support and stability even when separated. 

I’m going to buy one of those BFF necklaces with the charm that’s split into two, but I’m going to give Nancy both halves because she is so much better of a friend than me. 

That brings me to a terrific life lesson. Surround yourself with people who have qualities you admire, who bring you up, who like you as you are, who are not jealous but instead applaud you and the things that bring you joy. 

Class dismissed.