Monday, April 9, 2012

Magic and Moonbeams

My very first best friend ever was magical. She was all of the things that I wished I could be. She was bold and outspoken. I was shy and compliant. She had older siblings and beautiful curly hair. I had younger brothers (brothers!? BLECH!) and stick straight locks.

We met on my first day in a new kindergarten. My family had just moved to town, and it was the middle of the school year. I was in awe from the moment we met. I'm sure she felt otherwise. I was shy and quiet. She was pulled out of the classroom rotation seconds before her turn at the 'best' station and ordered to show me around. She let me know how ticked she was, and resentfully pointed out the highlights of the room. I don't even remember how the rest of the day went, but by the time the last bell rang, somehow we were inseparable.

We spent every moment together that we were allowed to. After school play dates, weekend sleepovers. I even dragged her to a week of Lutheran summer camp with me one year - she did not thank me for that. I have almost no photos of her because we were always so physically close together that in pictures of me, she's half-hidden.

The best part about her was her wild imagination. I dreamed of being as spontaneous and adventurous as she was. Together, we braved the forbidden storm drainage ditch after heavy rains and ruined our play clothes sliding through muck. We once covered ourselves with mud from my mother's garden (head to toe!), knocked at my front door, and declared ourselves to be The Mud People. We were stunned to be turned away and told to rinse off with the hose - the Mud People had planned on a warm bath.We turned an afternoon of digging holes for her mom's new pussy-willow plants (at a quarter apiece) into a dream of an underground clubhouse... which quickly devolved into a gigantic fight over design followed by hitting each other with the digging spoons and a lengthy time-out... We played, we fought, we made up, we started over. But in all of our grand plans, she was the instigator, The Idea Guy and the ringleader. I was an eager and willing cohort and her constant shadow.

Our years of joined-at-the-hip carefree fun came slowly to a close. Our parents pulled us from the public school where we met, and sent us to separate Christian schools. My family moved to a new neighborhood that was over half an hour away. Since we were too young to drive and bridge the physical gap, we drifted apart. By the time we were reunited in high school, our bond was broken. We saw each other in the halls and occasionally shared a class, but we no longer ran in the same pack. She became a girl I used to know.

I realized recently that I've spent most of my adult life looking for her. Every best friend I've chosen since then has been based on a template of her. I'm drawn to bold, funny, fiercely intelligent, storytelling instigators who draw me out and let me act wild. My first roommate who taught me to count my drinks, hold my liquor, and always show up for work no matter how messed up the previous night was. My California friend who refuses to allow an opportunity to create a story or tell one pass him by. The bestie who knew that I was nervous entering a party so she immediately sized up the room and loudly declared us 'the finest bitches in here'. The wickedly funny work colleague who innocently suggests insanity and acts shocked if someone takes him up on it. The husband who looks straight-laced (or as an acquaintance once sneered: 'like he folds his SOCKS'), but harbors a hilariously wild streak. They're all part of my life because she taught me how awesome it is to have people like that close to you.

I have other friends as well. Quietly lovely. Humbly wonderful. Those friends are different. Those are the friends that came along naturally; friendships formed by circumstance and retained because of smiling affinity for each other. I treasure every one of them as well, but it's the wild ones with the gleam of mischief in every smile that I seem to seek out like a truffle pig. I may turn over a forest of dirt first, but I always find that gem of a friend who allows me shine just a brightly as they do.

I will always owe a debt of gratitude to my first best friend. The one who showed this shy little bookworm that fun people could love me. That I could learn to show my fun side - hell, she showed me (the consummate rule-following people pleaser) that I even had a fun side.

She still has the twinkle in her eye. I see it in the pictures she posts online. I wonder what she sees in pictures of me?

B & R July 4 1979 - she scraped her ankle seconds before my mom snapped us in our matching homemade sunsuits.


  1. R, thank you so much for posting this wonderful, poetic essay. I have tears in my eyes (and soon my mother will, too!). It's amazing how differently I see one-of-a-kind YOU from the (humble) way you view yourself. Coming at you this summer: my take on our great early friendship. Love from Baltimore, B

  2. B - I started it the first time that I walked past your old house on my way to the playground. It took me forever to be able to put it all down! Can't wait for your rebuttal :-P