Several years ago, I was telling a story to a colleague at work. She was always a great listener -- the kind of person that you tell a story to once, and she remembers all the characters' names and roles, the twists and turns. I referenced my best friend, Courtney.
She interrupted, "Wait... I thought Heather was your best friend."
I replied, "She is."
She looked at me quizzically, "So how can Courtney be your best friend?"
"She just is. They both are. Along with LJ (Laurie)."
She sighed and said, "But shouldn't the term 'best' mean 'one'? Like the top one? The one that stands out above everyone? Your whole life is words; I'd think you'd choose a different one -- a more specific one."
I thought for a moment before I spoke. But when I did, I said the only thing that made sense. "They're all my best friends because they help me feel the best about myself. I think that's how we all make each other feel. Like the best version of ourselves."
I've always had friends in my life that were special to me. In fact, I have all sorts of best friends -- best childhood friends, best work friends, best camp friends, and best life friends.
I had dinner with my best life friends last night to celebrate one of their birthdays at our favorite restaurant. It was just the four of us, and as usual, we found ourselves closing down the restaurant. We'd just spent 3 days on a mini-vacation together less than 2 weeks ago, and here we were again, spending 3 and a half hours still talking. Then there was another 15 minutes in the street and parking lot, still talking. We are always talking.
Last night, I thought about another trip we'd taken several years ago where, for my birthday, they surprised me with a weekend trip to Camp El Tesoro -- the place we'd all become friends. We had another friend, Faith, with us (Faith is one of our 3rd generation camp buddies). It was her first time to visit ET and probably one of the first times she'd spent an extended period of time with all of us together, at once. She's pretty quiet normally, but she seemed even more so, so I asked if everything was okay.
She laughed and said, "I'm just taking it in. Y'all are too funny. Your conversations start, wander around, people jump in and out and switch topics, and then all of a sudden, you're back to the original story, but someone else is finishing it. And you're laughing and talking over one another and one memory triggers another memory which starts a whole new story... It's like each of you knows exactly what the other one will say at any given time. It's confusing as Hell, but it's cool to watch. I'm just watching."
I'm fairly sure that was just in the 30 minute car ride. And I was blindfolded. I wasn't even with all my conversational senses at full strength.
But it's true. We are always in each other's head. We are always in each other's hearts too. We read each other like we read our favorite books, over and over. And even when you know every piece of the plot, you still manage to find something new to appreciate.
These are the people, these best life friends, who know every single thing about me. They know me better than any other friend and better than my family (by a country mile). They know my faults and fears and secrets, and they've never run away from them. They know my successes and joys and challenges, and they've never failed to celebrate them. And I know all of theirs. Courtney's and Heather's kids are all of our kids. Courtney's and LJ's husbands didn't just marry Courtney and LJ, they (hopefully) understood that they come with other people in tow. Their parents are my parents; their sisters are my sisters. We are friends, but we are family, too. They are my light, my lifeline, my life-savers.
It's not to say we are perfect -- we all have our annoyances and quirks, and we can piss each other off in a heartbeat if we so choose (although through growing up, we've learned how not to press those buttons so easily). Being so close can be messy and irritating and joyful; many people probably would think it's weird, but I think that's just jealousy. Or maybe it's just bad luck that they aren't so blessed, I don't know. But we are perfect in our imperfections. Those kinds of friends are hard to find, and they're even harder to hold onto. It takes work and effort to be in each other's heads and hearts.
While on our mini-vacation to the ranch a couple of weeks ago, Laurie put on the movie "Stand By Me". She'd never seen it, but she bought it knowing it was one of those 80's movies that the rest of us probably loved. And it was true, Heather and I kept spouting the lines and laughing at the jokes even before they were told. If you've never seen it, here is the final scene. I always tear up at the final scene. The writing is perfect; the cinematography is genius and haunting.
As the last words -- "Jesus. Does anyone?" typed across the screen, and the music started up, LJ simply said, "We do."
And she was right. Again. And I'm so glad, so blessed, to have them standing by me.
I love the original recording of this song, but this one just seems to fit even better. I love it.
*The first link I have to Courtney is from her blog -- "Musings from Suburbia". The linked post is one of my favorite things she's ever written, and it so perfectly captured how I feel about her and our friends that I always feel that anything I say will be insufficient. Also... her blog is full of funny (and honest) looks at parenting and GORGEOUS photos.
**There are many links to other posts in here, but they are still not all of the posts that mention my beautiful and wondrous friends. There are simply too many. But these are some of my favorites.
***At dinner last night, I promised to make an addendum to Laurie's birthday post (which I did) but will also proclaim it here: Laurie Johnston Garner is NOT terrible at accents, but she is terrible at resisting the urge to parrot them back to unsuspecting foreigners and country folk. She doesn't even know she's done it until we hurriedly stop her or let it play out and then fall apart laughing.
****This post, much like our conversations, doesn't seem to want to end. Seems about right. But here's my wish for you: If you have some best life friends, call them. Hug them. Tell them what they mean to you. Go to dinner and stand in the parking lot. You won't regret it. I promise.