When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, I had a “best friend” who was my neighbor. Apparently, we met as babies over the back wall where my driveway and her backyard met. That’s all I ever remember being told.
We did everything together, including walking to school together every day for our entire academic careers up to high school. We went on day trips and vacations with each other’s families. We went to camp together during four consecutive summers. She was an only child, and I was the youngest of four, so I had hand-me-down clothes, toys, and books while she had brand new everything. And she DID have everything. My aunt lived with us. Her grandfather lived with them. This extra adult in each household supported the “go everywhere” mentality and spoiled us both when our parents could not.
Throughout this whole time, she was the leader, and I was the follower. People who know me as an adult may find this hard to imagine. But people who know me REALLY well understand me to be a highly sensitive person, and know that I don’t like conflict and confrontation. She had all the best stuff, and I came to believe that she had all the best plans and ideas too.
The first time I really felt a change in the friendship was during April of our eighth grade year. If you’ve read enough Paula Danziger and Judy Blume from that time, you know that a young girl’s coming-of-age event, one that is biological in nature, and one that is not something I will openly name, due in part to my British heritage forcing me to be awkward about just certain things . . . I digress . . . anyway, you know that it’s supposed to be a big deal, that best friends talk about it, and that if one is a best friend, one knows when it happens for your best friend before anyone else does.
So, there it was, April of my eighth grade year, and it happened for me, FINALLY, and I told my best friend. Since she had never told me about her Aunt Flo coming to visit, I assumed that FOR ONCE I was first with something. Totally blasé, sister friend was like, yeah? I’ve been having mine for (and then whatever span of time was dropped on me like a bomb at that moment, I do not recall).
Really? REALLY? And then, come to find out, other girls knew. I didn’t know. She had never told me. Whaaaaat?
So, clearly, I got this friendship thing all wrong.
But whatever. Then, as we were taking the placement tests near the end of eighth grade, we tried to make sure we’d be in the same class in high school, so we each put the preference we thought the other put. I put Algebra I. She put Algebra IA. Aaaah! When we found out, we each went and changed our forms. I put Algebra IA. She put Algebra I. And that’s what ended up happening when our schedules were created.
Due to our last names being in the same chunk of the alphabet, we had the same homeroom teacher, but our class schedules had little else in common from that point forward. This was step two, I believe.
As we continued in high school, I took every “A” (for accelerated) class that was offered. They didn’t have AP classes at that time, so I guess it was the equivalent of “Honors.” She took whatever she took. I made friends in all my classes, but we were always best friends, this first one and I. I got involved in music, and later, theatre as well. She got involved in dating boys with cars.
I was never all that into dating. Or other stuff I was, apparently, supposed to be doing as a high school girl. I didn’t wear make-up. I liked plenty of boys, but I never even had a real boyfriend until my senior year. By that point, I had long since stopped going by my friend’s house in the mornings before school to walk to school with her.
(She had never come by my house to get ME for school. I always thought it was because her house was one house closer to school up through eighth grade, but then MY house was one house closer to the high school . . . and . . . so . . . . . ?)
I had a tight group of friends through band and theatre. She tried getting involved in marching band, and even got her boyfriend to join as well. It may have been an attempt to meet me in my world. It didn’t last all that long. And that was fine. I was doing my thing, I had purpose, and I was happy.
By graduation, we were two completely different people. And I was okay with that. I had a boyfriend I had been with for most of senior year. I was going off to college about an hour or so away. It had been so long since we had really been close or hung out much, I didn’t miss the friendship.
College was great. I had a whole new posse of friends. I got close to a few of them and we’re still in touch today. I met someone I consider my closest friend today, who knows so much about me, and who accepts me and loves me, and she’s a topic for another post. We also live an entire continent apart, which is some of why she gets her own blog update.
A couple of times in college, when I was home on a weekend or break, my first best friend and I tried to hang out and whatever, but it was forced and not really comfortable.
And then, the pinnacle of awkward arrived when my old friend and her parents came to the viewing when my father passed away. I definitely appreciated their being there, but it really drove home the point that she and I had never really had all that much in common. Except, I guess, the wall between our yards, over which we first met.