“BFF” is used by the young to signify that another person is their best friend, forever, with the emphasis on the final word. But how often do those friendships really stand the test of time, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, jobs, and moves to other cities or countries? What is forever and how long does it really last?
My friend Karen and I often use the BFF nomenclature for each other, and we are certainly a testament to a long-term friendship. We became “BFs” in fifth grade, and survived another “friend” trying to “break us up” in high school, attending colleges located miles apart, my moves to Arizona, France, Spain, and the Bay Area. We don’t talk on the phone every day, or see each other often, but when we do, we still pick up exactly where we left off. There are no awkward pauses or searches for topics of conversation. Even though we are more than forty years older than when we first became friends, and have lived different lives, we still get each other. She is one of the easiest people in the world for me to be around. We shared a childhood, and somehow survived high school together. We share memories of our early lives in a way that no one else does or ever will.
Katherine, whom I met right after college while working in a Mexican Restaurant in Santa Barbara, is my other BFF. She was kind enough to warn me about the in-house Lothario who was known by all for always trying very hard to seduce the “new girl”. I wasn’t the least bit vulnerable to the guy’s “charms, but all the same was touched that she was thoughtful enough to let me know, when no one else had bothered. In Katherine I discovered a kindred spirit, with the same love of food, fashion, entertaining and travel. While she has made it both a career and an art form, and I’ve slacked off to the point of letting my husband eat Lean Cuisine for dinner several nights a week, my head and my heart are full of thirty years of memories of her parties, large and small, gourmet lunches on her deck, New Year’s Eve parties and New Year’s Day brunches, and shared meals and confidences in restaurants in LA, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Atlanta, Savannah, New Orleans, New York, Paris and more.
Perhaps I got this gift of best friendship times two from my mother. She also has a best friend from childhood and one from young adulthood. Both live on the east coast, and my mother on the west, so these are friendships sustained over sixty to seventy years or more without the benefit of seeing each for years at a time. Mignon, my mother’s best friend from childhood, was my “Aunt Min”, who never had kids of her own and consequently spoiled me whenever we went to visit my grandmother in New York. She took me to Broadway shows and Rockefeller Center, and always made me feel like a small adult. She once took me shopping and let me buy a little black dress and platform shoes when I was about thirteen years old. More importantly in my young eyes, she took the heat for the purchase when we got back home and my mother, great-aunt and grandmother all laid into her for letting a young girl buy something that wasn’t (in their opinions!) age appropriate. I loved that dress and wore it until I outgrew it.
My mother’s other best friend she also met as a young adult. If Mignon was the “sophisticate” in my eyes, Henny was the “earth mother”. With a vast knowledge of botany and the greenest thumb I had even seen, she lives on more acres of land than this suburban girl had ever imagined being part of a “backyard”. My memories of a visit to her house as a child include the best tomatoes I have tasted to this day, grown by her own hand. When my mom is feeling blue and needs to talk, Henny is the one she calls, now, just as I phone Karen or Katherine. She and my mom talk on the phone frequently, even more so now when they are experiencing the shared pain of and responsibility for husbands who are invalids.
The member of my family whose relationship most exemplifies the “BFF” paradigm is my dad. He and his friend Jud met in high school in Boston and then reconnected in Southern California where they both moved as adults. My mom and dad and Jud and his wife Addie used to go out to dinners and plays together, and every Thanksgiving we went to their house for dinner. I didn’t call them “Aunt” or “Uncle”, but they are as much family to me as the blood Aunt and Uncle who lived back east. My Thanksgiving memories are of Addie’s amazing potato stuffing and the time that their daughter Gail’s boyfriend squirted seltzer water all over one of the guests. I remember Jud and my Dad’s love of dill pickles, the blueberry pies we would bring for the two of them because they liked it more than pumpkin, reminiscences of their high school double dates and easy camaraderie. Jud and Addie were at my wedding, and I remember Jud sitting next to my Dad, who was in a wheelchair, and holding his hand during the reception. They weren’t talking, but they didn’t need to. When my dad became bedridden, Jud and Addie, were the only ones who visited consistently, always stopping at a deli to pick up the cornbeef and rye bread and salads my dad loved, but that we couldn’t buy nearby. Even after Jud’s death a few years ago, Addie kept coming to visit until the drive became too much for her.
Now Jud is gone and my Dad is out of it due to the morphine he is prescribed for pain and his ailments. While my Dad rarely talks, he does mention Jud from time to time. Jud’s daughter Gail says that her father is looking out for my father, and I believe her. It is comforting to think that Jud is my Dad’s guardian angel, and that they will be reunited when my Dad passes away. I can just see the two of them sitting side-by-side, holding hands, reminiscing about their more than seventy years of friendship, and looking down from heaven on their wives and families. And that is the true meaning of best friends FOREVER.