We’ve all succumbed to those eye-catching quizzes that pop up on our social media news feeds and lure you in to about 10 minutes of your life that you are promised to never get back. I’m a sucker for a good one that tells me which Disney character I most emulate or what Hollywood star is my doppelganger. Or the latest, a word cloud of your most used written vocabulary, which could get a bit dicey for some this political season.
As an OCD gal at her finest, I love any lists, so make it a top 10 and I’m sold especially if it helps me confirm what I already know – like “you’re a millennial if…” or “you know you’re an only child when…”. One of my favorites helps me reminiscence about my childhood when it validates that yes, I am indeed an 80s kid. But I already knew that. Because my doppelganger is Punky Brewster and the Little Mermaid is my Disney movie of choice, well until Finding Nemo came out! And for years my mom dressed me in those lovely white Keds and I, indeed, was a pro at Mario Brothers on the Nintendo.
Besides the fact that my birth certificate endorses this truth, it would take one glance at a childhood photo with my bangs nearly touching the ceiling to never question the decade I’m from. Well, that and the best friend necklace that was my prized possession.
Right before Kindergarten, we moved to a new home in a new area of town where I was forced to make new friends. Beyond popular belief, at that time of my life I was a quiet, shy little girl that was nervous in new surroundings. I know, I know… I, too, question who that kid was! But that was me, and a new environment had me in tears literally every day my parents would drop me off of school. That is, until I found her.
I don’t remember the moment or the day… but I know the feeling that I had – because I can still feel it – when I met my best friend. She was a year older than me but we liked the same things, like digging in the dirt to find hidden treasures and rescuing dead animals off the side of the country roads she lived off of, because they deserved a proper burial. We started our own “save the animals” club and had dreams to make the world a better place, together. We were best friends, and we even had the heart-shaped puzzle necklaces to prove it.
Nothing outside of us mattered when we were together. We laughed. We danced. We rode horses and drew pictures. Everything we did was magical and exciting, and there wasn’t a care in the world because we knew that no matter what happened, we would always have each other. I was safe in this new place around new people because I had her. I had my best friend, Jessie. And she had my back, especially when she knew that holding my hand when we walked to the bus made me feel better. It didn’t matter if the big kids made fun of us; it didn’t stop her from being what she knew I needed right at that moment.
For years I remember praying to be extra smart so that I could skip a grade and be in class with her. Thank goodness for our time together after school and on the weekends. We even did Girl Scouts together – me, the youngest, amongst all of her new friends at school. But she didn’t leave me out. She welcomed me every chance she got. Even when I applied for my first job, she was there, working at the same movie theater and watching over me to make sure I was well taken care of.
A few nights ago, I cuddled on the couch with my two oldest, reading them a book before bedtime and thinking back on the highlights from our days. I asked Eli who he played with at school and as he ran down the list of all of his friends, he made a point to acknowledge that while he loved playing with those kids, Nathaniel, Holland, and Carter were his best buddies. That sweet boy… his friends from his first school will always hold a special place in his heart. As they should – together those kids made school a place that they wanted to be amongst friends that cared for one another, even if it included a random push, a few yells, and endless tattles.
I looked at Lyndi next, to learn about her day, but when I asked who she played with at school, she shrugged and mumbled no one. Now, while I am confident that she does indeed play with her class and loves every second of it, I see so much of myself in her shy soul. Not only is she a physical replica of me – from my dark attributes to my nervous hair-twirling – she tends to observe the world in a way I did at a young age, waiting for that moment of connection that would keep me safe and give my day meaning. I proceeded to ask who her best friend was, and she put her head down while diverted eye contact. I lifted her chin so she would look at me and told her what every mother should tell her daughter – “sweet girl, can I be your best friend?”
Her eyes twinkled and her mouth stretched from ear-to-ear. After a theatrical “yes”, she scooted closer to me on the couch…as close as our bodies could get… and she put her hand in my lap open for me to hold. She took her other hand and cupped it by her mouth so she could whisper sweet nothings in my ear and she proceeded to say, as if it was on repeat, “momma, we’re best friends.”
It’s now become a game, who gets to be her best friend. Maybe we should start a list that outlines the top 10 ways you know you’re Lyndi’s BFF. It would start with hand holding and candy sharing. Maybe end with extra cuddles and eskimo kisses. In the middle it would entail a mention of chasing each other at gymnastics and jumping in circles on the trampoline. Sometimes it’s me, other times it’s daddy. Occasionally a grandparent gets tossed into the queue. And as happy as it makes her, to know that someone loves her enough to take on that role, what she doesn’t know is it warms us more to know that we, too, hold a special place in her heart.
Eli just laughs at it. “Momma, we’re family. Of course we’re all best friends.” He’s right. That comes with the territory. It’s a given, at least it is in my book. But sometimes just as important as it is to say “I love you” to your family, it’s equally as important for them to know that you are best friends forever.
Nothing can break that friendship. It’s as solid as the corroded best friend necklace I have stashed in my memory box that Jessie and I wore for years. It may be tarnished and could use a little cleaning, but what relationship doesn’t need that, right? In fact, doesn’t every friendship require a little TLC? But lasting friendships don’t get thrown away in the garbage. They linger and can be picked up at any point in life. And true friendships are those that require the extra “F” on “BFF”, those where no words are needed to always keep you connected.
Everyone deserves to have at least one of these relationships in their lives. Maybe it’s your childhood friend or your spouse. Maybe it’s your parent or your child. Maybe it’s your Faith – talk about a relationship that is always waiting for us no matter where we are, who we’ve become, or what we have heavy on our hearts. Wherever you find it, cherish it for we are meant to be connected. We are meant to not hide and be true to ourselves. We are meant to hold hands and be a safe place for another.
My best friend and I grew up and grew apart. She moved and we both now have families with kids of our own. Our paths rarely cross, but our hearts will forever be intertwined. Thank you, Jessie, for showing me what a best friend is made of. I have big shoes to fill, but I pray that I can be at least half the best friend you were to me for my sweet Lyndi. I know it won’t be easy, but for today, I will giggle, and paint toenails, and cuddle close while we sneak a piece of candy and whisper gossip in each other ears. Because, what you did teach me is it doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing; it doesn’t matter how old you are or how many years it’s been. What matters most is who you’re with. It’s about showing love and being love. It’s about opening your arms and your heart. It’s about allowing someone else to be themselves and loving them no matter what. I may not know how to keep her heart from breaking one day or be able to shield her from experiences that are written in her life’s path, but I can be her safe place.
My sweet Lyndi, have no care in the world, for your momma will always be your best friend.