Thanks to Facebook, I recently reconnected with my very best childhood friend, Donna. We had corresponded over the years, but mostly through the obligatory holiday and birthday cards. Now I hear from her, or about her, almost daily through our various Facebook posts.
Our virtual reunion has astonished me because the online conversations feel as though no decades ever separated us. We communicate in the cadence unique to true Best Friends Forever—completing each other’s online sentences, referring to events and adventures known only to us, using terms that no one else understands.
Growing up in the sun-scented days of Miami, Donna and I were inseparable. These were the years of AM radio, Bobby Sherman, The Monkees and the first moon landing by Apollo 11. Our mothers wore lots of polyester and our fathers were enamored by some new football team called the Dolphins. And no, it was not a perfect time. These years also bore witness to the death of four student protesters by National Guardsmen at Kent State University, the murderous rampages of the Manson Family and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.
Donna and I were shaped by these times and by the culture of South Florida. But our adult paths differed in most every way. Donna never married, did not have children and chose not to go to college. She also lives about 10 miles from where we were raised. I pursued multiple degrees, a demanding career, traveled the world, married and became a mom.
Looking back, we were complete opposites as children, as well. I was bossy and an occasional Presbyterian; she was comical and a devout Catholic. My family life was filled with unhealthy drama; hers was stable and secure.
All these years later, I wonder about this. What drew us together? I don’t think I’ll ever know. And it doesn’t matter. I only know that I have never, and will never feel as connected to another person as I did to my very best childhood friend.
Unlike our spouses, whom we usually meet after we’re pretty much permanently molded, our childhood friends knew us throughout the formative years. They saw us shape-shift from one persona to another as we searched for the right fit with the world. Indeed, they shape-shifted right alongside us, and we influenced their journey, just as they did ours. Those close and long-term interactions over the years affected who we became.
Given this symbiosis, it’s understandable that Donna and I, decades later, speak effortlessly in a language that is older than, and distinct from, the voices I use with my spouse or adult friends. It is a voice that reflects who I used to be, the original me, the girl who surrendered to adulthood, as we all must. Thus, speaking my Donna voice, after all these years, connects the dots of my life. Plus, it keeps me real. I can fool my husband, but I cannot fool Donna. The girl definitely has my number.
My son, who is now a freshman in college, will most likely experience something similar. Male friendships may be different, but my intuition tells me otherwise. I was around Taylor and his friends a lot the past few months—observing the easy banter, the unique language, the surprisingly tender behavior as they said goodbye on their way to various universities.
These are young men who met in kindergarten and shape-shifted together for 13 years. They now begin their adult journey, in which the rules are different and the stakes higher.
Years from now, they will recall the days of their youth: youth baseball at , fall breaks at Hilton Head Island and the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Being so old and all, I’m not sure about which musicians will sustain their attention. I do know my son and I both love Eminen, and the Zac Brown Band. And, yes, they will recall 9/11, the Great Recession and other significant events of their generation.
Each of my son’s memories will include the faces of his closest childhood friends, those boys who grew beside him and who know him better than even his father and I do. His friends know all of my son’s little peccadillos. Oh, yes, they truly have his number. And for that, he will be most grateful in the years to come.