The people we count as friends, as adults, seem to reflect some version of ourselves or our lives.
Maybe political viewpoints differ, but we attend the same church, or our children are in the same class. Maybe our ages and those of our children are vastly different, but we support the same cause, or work for the same organization. Maybe our husbands are good friends. Or next door neighbors. There’s something there that we can relate to.
The people we choose as friends, as children, don’t reflect who we are, but show us who we can be.
I am fortunate to count my best friend, Linda, in both of these categories.
We have been friends for close to fifty years.
It’s amazing to me that I have so few photographs of Linda and I together.
There are a couple grade-school snapshots and an eighth-grade graduation picture. There is a distant shot of the two of us in our caps and gowns at the “Swing-Out” parade, the year we graduated from high school. One – in caps and gowns again – when we graduated college, and one group shot at a dinner party when I got my Master’s Degree. There is the photo, shown here, when we met in Charlevoix for a weekend of shopping and catching up, one taken of us together here on Beaver Island, and one group shot taken at her father’s eightieth birthday party.
That’s just about it.
Yet images of Linda run through my memories of most of my life.
I remember whispering and passing notes, staying over-night, doing whirling ballerina dances in undershirts and petticoats, walking holding hands, playing with “Barbie” dolls, buying penny candy, eating lunch under the bridge, and Linda’s perfect Yogi Bear imitation. Together we giggled about whatever we could find out about the mysteries of adulthood, compared our bodies, our first brassieres and the best means to pad them. We experimented with make-up and hair-styles. We compared notes on shaving legs and plucking eyebrows. We fell in love with the Beach Boys, then Fabian, then the Beatles. We watched horror films hosted by “Christopher Coffin” until I cried and begged for mercy. We read all the “MAD” magazines. We followed dance styles: the “Swim”, the “Frug” and the “Watusi”…Linda could do them all. We went from our little parochial school into the large, public high school with equal parts fear and excitement. A new world of boys and acting out opened up to us: drive-ins and parties and double-dates, experiments with smoking and drinking and skipping school…we made it through, as best friends, into adulthood.
Linda was the maid of honor at my wedding; I was the maid of honor at hers. We had children. We learned the joys and challenges of parenthood, comparing notes as our babies played together. We struggled with poverty, isolation and other limitations of marriage that we hadn’t anticipated. We read. We took a couple night classes together. We started getting interested in causes. We went back to school. When Linda and her husband separated, he came to sleep on my couch, until he could get his own place. Twelve years later, when my husband and I started divorce proceedings, he went to sleep on Linda’s couch. When Linda’s Mom died, I took off work and headed across the state to be with her. When my Mom was dying, Linda was right there beside us, a part of our family.
These are the ways our lives have intersected, always.
I remember Linda’s big smile and shy “hello” on the first day of school in Sister Aloysius’s sixth-grade classroom. She had transferred from another school. From sixth-grade to nearly sixty, she has been there! I can’t imagine the person I would have become without Linda as a part of my life.
Saturday, my dearest friend turns sixty.
Happy Birthday, Linda!