My first best friend was Michelle Breuker in the third grade. She lived way out in the country and we would ride her fourwheelers and eat frozen pizza with canned mushrooms on top and play Supermario 3 until late into the night and call boys from her dad's office phone in the basement (hanging up as soon as they answered, of course). I remember when her "boyfriend," Josh, broke up with her just before the end of fourth grade. She laid on her bed in the very pink room that she shared with her teenage sister, and we listened to Richard Marx in "Right Here Waiting", courtesy of her pink and gray boom box, and we both cried. And let me tell you, when we snuck into her sister's Caboodles and carefully applied gobs of blue eyeshadow and hot pink lipstick and filled our hair with hairspray until our permed bangs stood on end...we were hot!
After the fourth grade, I switched schools and we lost touch, but we are back in touch now, 20 years later, thanks to the wonderful world of Facebook. Here she is with her husband, John:
In the fifth grade, my best friend was Teresa Roche. She was the oldest of 8 kids, and her parents were beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking, rock-n-roll thumping Catholics who loved their kids and loved me, too. To this day, the smell of stale smoke in my clothes (like after a meal in a smoky restaurant) brings back good memories of the years I spent as Teresa's best friend. We had the necklaces - you remember the ones - the gold heart pendant broken in half, with "best" on one piece and "friends" on the other. Oh, we had them, and we wore them. Every day.
Until one fateful afternoon in 9th grade, when she slapped a Dear John letter in my hand and walked away. I had been a terrible friend to her for months. Seems I had been getting some attention from the in-crowd, now that my braces were off, and I had been giving her the "I'm too cool for you now" treatment. She had had enough. I received the letter in front of my new "friends," so I passed it into the trash with a laugh and tried to pretend that I wasn't cut right through. I tried to make amends to her years later, but to no avail. To this day, I have dreams that I am wandering around her parents' lawn in a half-dark fog, wishing I could go inside the house, but the rock-n-roll is no longer playing and all the lights are off. I am always, in these dreams, dragging the dead branch of a tree behind me. You psychologists could probably tell me what that means.
She is not on Facebook.
After Teresa, I hesitated to use the term "best friend" with anyone. The term is like a contract, and when things change, and people change, the term may no loner apply but neither party involved knows how to dissolve the contract. It is all quite awkward. And boys and men don't use the term at all, have you ever noticed? I never saw boys in school with matching T-shirts that said "best" on one and "friends" on the other. They would have been beat up for that. What is it about girls that makes us want to have a B.F.F. (Best Friend Forever, in case you weren't part of the 20th century)? Lou, who I wrote a recent post about - who has not had that baby yet, believe it or not - was definitely my best friend in college. No one would have disputed that. And even though we haven't lived in the same vicinity for years and she has many, many friends who know more about her daily life than I do, I know that I would be among the first to be called if something happened to her or her family, and she knows I would be among the first to be at her side. Best friend? What is that, really?
I have a friend here in this country who told me that she has a friend for every need, like an outfit for every occasion. If she needs someone to cry with, she calls one friend, if she wants to go shopping, she calls another, if she needs a good laugh, or a recipe, or advice on parenting, etc. etc., you get the idea. I think she has a very healthy way of looking at it, don't you?
And then there is Darci Long, pictured here with her husband, Matt. Darci is my Wendi.* My mom met Wendi when she was just starting out as a mom, as the 70's were coming to a close, and they became fast friends. Over the years, their friendship has changed, waxing and waning as friendships do, but they have never lost their bond. They are adult B.F.F.s. Wendi is now raising her grown daughter's child, because her daughter is battling a heroin addiction and can't raise her herself. My mom meets Wendi for lunch and they cry over their chicken salads and wonder what happened between potty training and heroin addictions.
Hopefully Darci and I won't have that exact same conversation in 20 years, but our friendship was born near the beginning of our motherhoods, and it was nurtured in our sweatpants as we folded laundry and watched our toddlers play. We lived right next door to each other, which in an apartment means sharing a wall, and we never let a day go by that we didn't talk. She was there when Zion was a newborn. She was at the airport with our families when we waved goodbye and left for East Asia. She was one of the last American faces I saw.
And now, Darci is going to be a star! She is pursuing her lifelong dream of acting, and I am her biggest fan. She is the only person I've ever met that dreams bigger than I do, which is one of the reasons I love her. She is not blowing smoke, people. She has an acting coach and an agent and has started driving around the South for auditions. Under her picture on Facebook, she has George Elliot's quote, "It's never too late to be what you might have been." You go, girl! Just remember, when you make it to the top, that I have been there from the bottom:)
Titles and contracts aside, friendships are a gift no matter what form they come in, or what forms they take on with the passing of time. Real friends are just about as sweet a thing as life has to offer.
*name changed to protect her privacy