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Being broken up with by your girlfriend in elementary school is always a traumatic event, especially when she bluntly tells you that you would go better with her cousin, whom you don’t even really know at the time.
That’s how I met Jen, my friend Carrie Miller’s cousin, when I was about 10.
If I could sum her up in one word, it would simply be funny…with awkward as a close second. She was a lanky, tall tomboy with the most outrageous personality ever.
Some of my fondest childhood memories were on the Miller family’s pony farm in Middletown, and that’s where my memories of Jen begin.
Along with Jen, Carrie and other friends, we would aimlessly, and recklessly, drive around the Miller’s farm in their Gator. Three people sitting in the front — it’s meant for two — and about three or four people sitting in the truck bed — which, of course, is meant for no one to ride in.
Of course, now, Jen is Jennifer Lawrence, a critically-acclaimed, Oscar-nominated actress known more for cutting her feature-film chops in Winter’s Boneand her bombshell red-carpet looks than racing through the mud on a farm in Middletown.
But back then, Jen and Carrie liked to have fun and weren’t afraid to get dirty when we were driving through the mud on the Gator.
But our time wasn’t limited to the summers on the farm. On the weekends we’d all take our romper room attitudes to the Lyndon YMCA. During the nights that it was set up for kids, we’d dance, eat and of course a hit the huge obstacle course play land.
We would run through that course, and the rest of the Y, until we collapsed from laughter and pure exhaustion.
The last time Jennifer and I spoke was one weekend last fall when Carrie and I were tailgating together for the football game in Lexington between University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University, our respective colleges of choice.
After a few drinks, we decided it would be a “great” idea to call Jen and tell her obnoxiously how much we miss her.
When Jen asked me what I had been up to I said, “I’m a reporter now.”
All she could muster was, “Oh, God.”
To me, Jen had always been a tough, athletic girl with a strong personality, perfect for her roles as a strong, driven woman in the Academy Award-nominated Winter’s Bone andX-Men: First Classand the upcoming Hunger Games.
But by the time we hit middle school we saw less and less of Jen because she started getting into acting and modeling. She moved to New York when she was 14.
I never really thought it was a big deal because, how many people from Kentucky really make it big?
Then I remember seeing her on TVfor the first time in an MTV commercial for My Super Sweet 16, and it was surreal.
Who knew that in a few years I’d be at Baxter Avenue Theater watching her play the lead role in Winter’s Bone on the silver screen?
Just recently, I sat with Carrie watching Jen play a supporting role in X-Men: First Class, one of the biggest movies of the summer.
I can do nothing but applaud my childhood friend Jennifer Lawrence. She, no doubt, stays grounded because of a strong upbringing and a very supportive family.
My ties with the Lawrences go back well before we met.
Just as I grew up with Jen and her cousin Carrie, my parents went to high school with Jen and Carrie’s mothers.
Though my mother was a mere acquaintance of them back in the 1970s, my father was close friends with Jen’s mother, Karen Koch, now Karen Lawrence, owner of camp Hi Ho in Shelby County.
When my father was diagnosed with cancer, Karen was there to offer her support, and she will always have a place in my heart because of that. She even visited him just about two weeks before he passed away July 28, 2010.
Just like me, he had nothing but positive words to say about their family.
And even as a “pesky” reporter who wasn’t given the time for an interview this summer, there are no hard feelings.