As a child growing up in the 70s and 80s, my friends and I each maintained a running list of our friend hierarchy. No, this list was never actually written in black and white. One desired no evidence lying around to be used as ammunition in future fusses with friends. Instead, the friendship list evolved daily if not hourly in our young, immature minds depending on the shift of attitudes and perception of behaviors. The goal of each young girl, however, was the same- to attain the top position on the other girls' lists, numero uno, or simply stated the BFF, Best Friend Forever.
In the later 'tween and teen years, the BFF title seemed to gain in significance. Now, “BFF” was used in the closing of notes passed back and forth between friends in class and in the halls during passing periods. More importantly, those three letters, BFF, were quickly searched for after a friend signed one's yearbook. The presence of these letters representing Best Friends Forever signified a sense of security, in essence an oath from the teenaged author, that would last not only for the remainder of the school year, but also encompass the summer months and endure beyond graduation.
Then, in my late 20s and early 30s, reality sunk in. . .. Best Friends Forever represented a childish ideal that did not translate well into adulthood. During this time, before the dawn of social networking and instant communication, friends still had to put forth effort to continue the BFF mentality, this effort which did not feel like effort in one's carefree youth. Yet, time constraints due to dating, marriage, employment, divorce, children, remarriage, house repairs, and the like, eliminated lengthy letters as an option, and costly phone bills were not feasible. So, the BFF, once a person of importance, became a distant memory of the past.
This is not to say that friendships were not prevalent in my adult life, but not to the degree of ease and certainty as the BFF once experienced in my younger years. Intriguing people have been met and admired through work and social encounters, but a fair share of unmentionables have crossed my path along the way, too. Initially, these unmentionables seemed to mirror the BFF of earlier years, but they, too, soon faded away, moved away, or I ultimately enlisted a getaway from the friendship.
So, to my surprise, I never thought in my late 30s, I would have a chance encounter with a woman who would renew my belief in the BFF. Perhaps, one may say that I had closed the door on the notion of a BFF and simply accepted the “fact” people enter and exit out of other people's lives. Savor and learn what I could from the lost relationship and not dwell on the heartache and loss of what I believed had been a true friendship; I had my health, my happiness, my husband, and my two daughters. Acceptance set in; I had come to terms with my BFF worldview until fortuitously a metaphorical door presented itself in the form of Bug Camp.
A stay-at-home thirty-seven-year-old mother of a two-year-old toddler and five-month-old baby, I found myself enrolled in a three-day children's camp geared towards the study of insects. Lugging my diaper bag, carrying the infant carrier, pushing the stroller, holding the registration forms, and keeping my toddler in tow, I looked over to see another woman in a similar predicament. A familiarity existed, but not simply as a result of the ages and number of her children. I had seen her before, but could not place her. We smiled politely at one another, exchanged pleasantries, and then followed the teacher's directions to quiet down and join the circle.
On day two, I could rack my brain no further and needed to know how I “knew” her. Upon approaching her, we realized that we had participated in Wiggles Gymnastics together nearly a year previous with our then only children. Laughter ensued when we realized both of us felt that Wiggles Gymnastics would be better relaunched as Parents Do the Work while Workers Watch Gymnastics, but that is a story for another day.
Day three was a joy at camp. This woman and I helped one another complete bug crafts and sing the correct words to the bug songs. Our final Bug Camp event was walking on a nature trail and observing various critters in their natural environments. We walked stroller to stroller for the duration. An uneasiness rapidly emerged, however, as we approached our cars and began loading our gear. Another year or more may pass before we crossed paths again if ever, so I needed to take action; I asked for her e-mail address.
Nearly two weeks elapsed before I sent the first e-mail. My thoughts swung from gratitude at the thought of a potential friendship to panic at the wonder of whether she was truly an unmentionable in disguise. Finally, I decided to take a risk by clicking on the send button and then anxiously awaited a response. When I saw her name in my in-box, I think I felt a flutter of excitement. The length of her response impressed me, and I hung on every typed word. Even after my appendectomy, I lumbered awkwardly downstairs to the computer in order to check for her e-mails. A birthday invitation to her daughter's third birthday soon followed, and I asked her if she would be interested in joining my book club; she accepted as did I.
Numerous birthday parties and three (failed) book clubs later, she is “Frick” to my “Frack.” Together we are solving the world's problems, reviewing the latest movies, and critiquing our husbands one day at a time. She tolerates my sloppiness, and I admire her cleanliness. I volunteer her for Vacation Bible School activities, and she recruits me for Pee-Wee Soccer duties. She observes my color-coded book collection with a smile, and I dismiss her attempts to skip kettle bell with a shake of my head. Who knew that my 40s would present the reemergence of the BFF? I suppose the old adage does hold true; if one door closes, inevitably another one will open with an unlimited threshold of possibilities.
This essay is dedicated to woman blessing Sarah B. on her 36th birthday, 10/17/13.