When it comes to best friends I like to think I’m old school. We were best friends decades before BFF became a thing. I know lots of women who have a best friend that was a college roommate or sorority sister, another mother from ECFE class or from the next cubical at their first real job. No matter where they were acquired, I am happy for anyone who has one.
Mine moved in across the street the year before I started kindergarten. She had four older sisters, I had two older brothers. She got a baby sister before that first year was over and I remained the youngest in my family. The nice thing about having a best friend for basically your whole life is that you never have to fill them in, give them the back story. They know your cousins and you know their list of old boyfriends.
I watched girls in high school, college and even beyond fight with their friends and be mean, sometimes severing their relationships entirely. My best friend and I never went through that. We may have been lucky that she went to the Catholic school on the next block from our houses from first through eighth grade and I was always at the public school. Ninth grade through senior year we were both at Southwest in Minneapolis (where I had been since seventh grade) so we never experienced that petty junior high drama that can impact relationships at a young age. We also pursued different interests; she played basketball, was a cheerleader and played tennis and I did dance line and played badminton. So we were never in direct competition with each other. Though our after school activities would have us departing at different times we had a mile long walk to school together for four years through all kinds of weather. There were times the two of us would ride together on one bike to school which occasionally had comical results.
Over the years we have each made friends through school, work or our neighbors that have been added to our circle and this has only broadened our friendship and multiplied both the wisdom and the laughter. Laughter has been with us throughout. We have stories that would perhaps not be funny to someone else but can leave us in tears. Stories from bus trips down town, hockey tournaments in Grand Rapids and the parking lot at the old Met. As adults we got “in trouble” in a restaurant after watching a half of a bag of croutons (purchased from the manager) be presented as a birthday gift and we could not stop laughing. That Christmas I gave a full bag as a gift. That’s what best friends do!
A favorite destination for us over the years was my family cabin, a log building on a lake with no running water. We loved being in the water, laying out on the raft or rowing a boat down to the public landing. We went with my folks, as we got older they would leave us for a week, later still we would go on our own and bring friends. We knew the woods, met folks from the other end of the lake and as we got older we knew most of the bars in the surrounding towns. It was a place to go to before someone got married and eventually it was a place to go with the girls when a marriage was ending. When you are best friends you stand up for each other at weddings, more than once if necessary.
We met each others kids at the hospital, shared parenting advice and hand-me-down clothes. We rented side by side cabins as families one summer and during those awkward elementary/middle school years took all the kids to a Mexican resort for spring break. Our kids are all more mature now than we will ever be but for the most part they admire our everlasting relationship.
We rely on each other for what the other is strongest at. I did the eulogies at her parents funerals, she came over and rehung every fixture on my main floor after my husband’s business trip to Italy was extended by a week. We had completed a home improvement project just prior to hosting my mother in-laws birthday. She and I were able to laugh with her squatted on a vanity, holding a medicine cabinet in place with her shoulder and drilling in a way that my husband and I never would have been able to. Instead of bickering about how high to hang a towel rack we would just do it then take a break for a beer outside.
We have stayed best friends despite both of us having moved out of state at times. Through the raising of our children there were long stretches when it was hard to find time for each other unless it was stolen moments during a rummage sale or home improvement project. Now we have reached that point in life where our parents are gone and our own children are fairly independent. We have had the good fortune of our oldest children attending school at Bemidji State University just a year apart, resulting in the opportunity for a couple of road trips.
Today is my best friends fifty-first birthday, we have lived through portions of six decades together and because of some amusing circumstances we saw each other three times during the past week. The great part of having a lifelong best friend is that the relationship is cumulative, when we laugh it is not simply at what is provoking the laughter at that moment, it is multiplied by all of the funny times and situations we have endured together. Happy Birthday and in the immortal words of the St. Thomas the Apostle 8th grade boys “Thanks for the memories, the good times with Mel, gee weren’t they swell!”