On this, my 300th post on Stylemindchic LIfe, I want to share a personal story of someone near and dear to me and the power of friendship in my life. I tend to have many friendly acquaintances and only a handful of 'true blue' friends that I've collected over a life time.
Deb and I met in fourth grade and made a fast connection. She is Italian with a fun-loving, generous spirit and an infectious laugh. Everyone wanted to be her friend and somehow I got lucky enough to become her best friend. We eventually managed to get our desks assigned side by side. They were the old school kind, with the top that flipped up, and I'm sure the teachers 'never' caught on that our desks were often lifted in unison so we could giggle. Our recess conversation usually revolved around the cutest boys or which of the girls might actually be wearing a bra. Yes....we go back that far.
7th grade costume party (Top row: Deb 3rd from left, me 5th from left)
Deb and I were married during recess one day in fifth grade. That may sound odd for two 'boy crazy' girls but it made perfect sense to us, to cement our friendship. Truth be told, that marriage has lasted longer than any other marriages for either of us.
It had always been our dream to be roommates in college. We roomed together for a year at Pacific Union College, in the Napa Valley, before she left for nursing school. It was a memorable year in every way. I remember regular trips to St. Helena to buy french pastries at the Model Bakery for brunch, in that tiny dorm room, with twin beds and a blue shag rug. We were living the life! Scott asked me why we dressed the same for disco roller skating. I think its just because we felt like dressing alike that day.
We stood up for each other in our weddings. Mine in 1982 (age 20)
and hers the next year, 1983.
As the years went by I was thrilled to meet her babies, Matthew and Justin, with her handsome husband Mark.
Deb and Mark eventually moved to Maine, and my husband and I ended up in graduate school in Michigan. On a cold, soggy day two years later, I remember flying out to visit her, during a very tough time near the end of my marriage. Deb met me at the airport with a stuffed bunny. Who knew a heart-broken 26-year-old would be comforted by a stuffed bunny? A best friend just knows.......I slept with that bunny for years and I still have it tucked away in my closet.
We had even more fun out on the town than this photo implies, I promise you!
(I'm a little disturbed by the 'Flock of Seagulls' bangs I was sporting)
In the early 1990's Deb moved back to Northern California and so did I. At last the best friends from fourth grade were living within driving distance again! Though we travel collectively 3 hours to meet half way for a meal, it's always a joy.....finishing each others sentences, talking too loudly and laughing like crazy.
At least four times during our friendship we have purchased the same outfit without knowing it.
One conversation we had from Maine to Los Angeles went like this:
Deb, "I just bought the cutest dress, it's silk shantung."
Me, "I bought that dress too!!"
Deb,"Wait-how do you know?"
Me, "Silk shantung, gray-green sheath from Express?"
Deb, hilariously laughter, "YES!!!"
A best friend just knows.......
On this day we both showed up for lunch wearing the same top from TJMaxx.
Our friendship has also taken us through some difficult times. Five years ago, my dad was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. Deb and Mark had just celebrated their 25th anniversary when he was also diagnosed with cancer. You could say we were both living in 'the valley of the shadow' during that time. My dad's battle was short but traumatic.....he was gone in only 19 days. Deb and I were in different hospitals for the holidays in 2008 with our loved ones. Our phone calls were raw and tearful, but we gave each other courage for our journeys. A month later Deb left her husband's hospital bed to attend my dad's memorial service. I woke up early the next morning to travel to visit Mark in the hospital. I remember looking at my best friend, in a quiet conversation that day, and deeply admiring her tremendous courage in the face of losing her life partner and the father of their sons.
A few months later we were on the phone, during one of our frequent check-ins, and Deb told me the end was near. We shared tears and maybe a tiny chuckle about something. We hung up. She called back a moment later, in a whisper, that Mark was gone. I have a feeling the last thing Mark heard was his loving wife sharing conversation, tears, and tiny chuckle, and he passed knowing she would be okay in life.
Mark and my dad are buried just a few yards apart in the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon, California.
I watched Deb, the mom, rise out of her own grief to help her son and his fiancée plan their wedding. She said it was a good thing to help get her out of bed each day, and I marveled at her strength. I saw her beautiful, smiling face at Justin and Chelsey's lovely wedding, knowing she was missing the man who should have been by her side. A best friend just knows.....
A year later I saw the rosy glow of love start to creep back into Deb's life in the form of a college friend of ours. Bruce, a wonderful man, had never married, and lived in the same community as Deb. I remember thinking he had a crush on her in college, and my personal belief is that he just never found anyone to measure up. I don't blame him, I married her too! ;) With Bruce there was the comfort of history, friendship, trust and eventually love bloomed.
I saw the beautiful bride, Deb, standing alone in her home, waiting for Scott and I to escort her to the wedding. She was serene, calmer than I had ever seen her and ready for the next chapter, knowing that life is a bittersweet road. It was truly an unforgettable and joyous day.
My best friend recently became a grandma 'Nona'. It's hard to believe since I remember this Nona in fourth grade. Life goes by so fast. The different chapters are written and rewritten. Hair color changes, weight fluctuates, hearts break and are mended. When I taught school, in La Canada, I used to tell my fourth grade girls, "Be good to your girlfriends. Boys will come and go but your girlfriends will be there for life".
Thankfully, I've found this to be true.
Happy Anniversary to my best friend since fourth grade!
I guess we are going on about 42 years or so.
For more on the healing power of friendships.
As I'm reflecting on friendship today, it's also good to reach out of our comfort zone and make new friends as I did with