2017-12-06 / Columns

Moving on: ‘Bestest friends’ learn a life lesson


I came upon the photograph during a recent purge of the old secretary-desk in the den. It was yellowed with age and almost terminally bent, but if I looked hard enough, I could still make out the figures of two little girls, arms wrapped around one another, smiling into the camera.

What a flood of memories that old photograph brought!

It was from decades ago when the subjects, our youngest daughter Nancy, and Caroline, the beautiful child with the shiny brown hair and the enormous brown eyes, her “bestest” friend in all the world. If memory serves me, they were about seven years old. And absolutely bound to one another.

Nancy and Caroline had found one another back in the carpentry corner at nursery school, and had never let go. No traditional role-playing for these tiny feminists who preferred driving stubby little nails into little slabs of wood over dressing Barbie dolls.

It was a friendship that was meant to be.

By the second grade, Nancy and Caroline had become a notorious twosome.

“I’m going to separate you girls,” their long-suffering teacher had threatened almost daily. But she, too, saw something so touching—so fierce— about their loyalty to each other that she never could do it.

But one year soon after that, they were plunked down in different classrooms. Bereft at first, they had railed at the fates. But they had still managed to find each other at recess or in the lunch line or on the school bus.

“Save me a seat!” no longer needed to be said. Not between best friends.

So they had played Double Dutch until their feet got blisters. And they had walked uptown for double-dip ice creams on Saturday afternoons. Together, they had weathered the storms of blemishes and training bras, bewildering bodies and boys, and parents who didn’t understand them any more. Together.

And they had thought it would last forever.

Until one day, in a voice choked with sobs, Caroline had said the unthinkable: “I’m moving.”

Moving. The word made no sense to either of them.

But one day, there was a sale sign on Caroline’s house. And too soon, too heart-stoppingly soon, there was a moving truck in Caroline’s driveway. And in a blink, three burly movers were carrying out the kitchen table, the den sofa and the stuffed animals that two little girls had cuddled on the long, precipitous journey from childhood to young womanhood.

People were too busy that day to really notice two 14-yearold girls in matching jeans standing together in the gathering dusk trying to figure out how to say goodbye to each other.

But when I looked at that fading picture of Nancy and Caroline, snapped so long ago, I remembered another image, this one of two girls standing on the lawn of a house with a “Sold” sign with tears streaming unashamedly down their cheeks.

Over the intervening years— college, marriage, babies, careers, life itself—Nancy and Caroline have reunited over long weekends across this big country. There have been the predictable tears—and the giddy joy of remembrance.

And on those occasions, so long after their parting on a suburban lawn, two no longer of tender age were still learning one of life’s most enduring lessons: That there’s never ever a best friend quite like your first. 


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