My first best friend lived next door and was eight months older than me. In our first grade class, she overpowered me to the point that a very wise teacher recommended that we be split-up in second grade so I could develop my own personality. (As pictured above, she was in front and I was in back of her.) Even so, she remained my best friend until she moved away in fifth grade.
There were other besties after that. I was drawn to two of them in particular because they challenged me to be more than just a boy crazy middle schooler and a love-sick teenager. One died nine years ago – the morning after she left a voice mail for me recounting her successful bout with heart surgery. The other – after a hiatus of many years – I reconnected with. She understands how poorly I communicate by phone and so tirelessly initiates the calls.
Newly married in my early twenties, I met a friend and instantly we became inseparable. Until the morning I missed our weekly bowling league outing due to minor cosmetic surgery. She was killed by an oncoming train on her way home from the alley. I had kept the surgery a secret. Had I told her, she would have been with me that fateful day. Not crossing the railroad tracks in her Datsun 240Z with the music blaring and a train ramming her to bits.
After that, there were more “best friends” equally as important. Like the one I refer to as “my rock” the keeper of my secrets – the institutional memory of my soul.
One I haven’t seen in decades – she lives across the country – she is like my muse – at odd intervals she writes me the most beautiful and encouraging notes that hoist my flagging spirits.
One is my comrade in arms – we buoy each other up when our warrior like behavior needs some reinforcement.
One can withstand my erratic moods – ranging from blatantly weird to weirdly sarcastic.
One who listens to whatever I want to talk about.
One who can make me laugh even when I do not think I can ever again even smile.
And this is what I have found: best friends are like lovers – you either click or you don’t. If you do, you tentatively begin to shed your carefully constructed facade in the hopes that they can withstand the gale forces that rage within you. You see that they are persistent, loyal and wise enough to peel back your layers of protective disguise and poke around in your muck to extract the good within.
I don’t need a best friend to shop with. I don’t need a best friend to share recipes with or knitting tips. I don’t need a best friend to even complain to. What I do need is a best friend who can genuinely celebrate with me my hard-won successes and, most importantly, my truly lucky breaks – without resentment and envy.
I need a best friend who will have the courage to tell me when I’m off track, irrational or stuck. And will have the patience to listen while I sort out my emotions and gain clarity.
I’m thankful for the coterie of woman I have in my life who I know in my darkest hours will stand by me and in my greatest shining moments will cheer me on too. Who look out for me. Check up on me. Believe in me. Defend me. Reflect the best in me. Never purposefully leave me.
Because that’s what best friends do.