Monday, October 12, 2009

First BFF, Always BFF?

I’ll bet you remember your very first best friend. The fun you had; the trouble you got into; the promises you made to stay friends forever. I remember mine. I’d moved into a new neighborhood a month into second grade, when friendships had already been formed. My brother was two, not much in the way of a playmate, and my sister hadn’t been born. There didn’t seem to be any prospects among my neighbors, who were mostly elderly. I can remember kicking stones in front of my house one Saturday morning, feeling like a lost soul.

That was when a curly-haired girl named Candace entered my life, living, as it turned out, catty-cornered from me. She came right across the street and introduced herself, and from that moment on, Candace and I were inseparable. We climbed trees, spied on creepy neighbors (one of them, a woman, later murdered her husband; another talked to ghosts) spent hours kneeling over the Sorry board, played with our Barbie dolls, took baton lessons, marched in parades, learned how to play the piano together – until one day a few years later she announced that she was moving. I thought my world was coming to an end.

She moved to the other side of town, which, to a child, might as well be to another state. From that point on, it became harder to stay best friends. She was ahead of me in school, double promoted, making new friends, while I soon moved on, too, finding a new BFF and later a steady boyfriend. We reconnected some years later, when I was doing a student teaching assignment and got to work with her in her classroom. The last time I saw her, she was expecting her first child and I had none.

This past September, in Athens, Greece, we met again, our collective children now young adults. She had found me a month earlier through a website for my class reunion, and as we tried in vain to find a date to meet somewhere in between our homes, which are in different states, we discovered we would both be in Athens on the very same day – for one day only.

Imagine the reunion. In the sumptuous lobby of the Grand Bretagne Hotel, where my friend and her husband were staying, my husband and I waited. I had seen her photo on line and felt certain I’d recognize her, still, I was nervous. I searched the face of every woman walking through the lobby, and then I heard a shriek and turned to see an attractive, dark-haired woman running toward me on high heels, arms outstretched. Everyone there stared as we hugged each other, shrieking, laughing, crying, and jumping up and down as if we were seven-years-old again. And as I gazed at her, I saw at once in her oh-so-familiar bright smile that happy, curly-haired girl who had rescued me from my boredom.

We spent three hours reminiscing, boring our husbands to tears, no doubt, and having the best time, as if all those years since we’d seen each other were erased in one swipe. We compared memories – where mine left off, hers picked up – and shared life experiences. And what was truly amazing was how much alike we were. Given how different our families had been, it makes me wonder what part we played in shaping each other’s lives, even to some small degree.

We have vowed to never lose contact again. To me, it’s like finding a lost family member, someone who has snapshots into my life that no one else can duplicate. It is a treasure that is too precious to let go. And how astounding that it took a trip to a place 5000 miles away for us to find each other again.

Do you know where your first first best friend is? Have you lost a friend and wish you could reconnect?