Thursday, August 21, 2014

In Praise of My Best Friend At Forty

I would like to take a moment to sing the praises of my most beautiful, bestest friend on her fortieth birthday.

Our families lived a few houses apart. Our lives were quite similar; she and her two brothers are each exactly one year older, in order, than me and my brothers. She lived in the same house design in the subdivision, except their house was a mirror of ours. Plus, she had a swingset! And mint growing along the side of the house.

She had this awesome yellow and orange swimsuit I wish I could have had, but alas...not only was it hers and not mine, but even then, she was smaller than me despite our age difference.

She was the reason I took dance classes. While I'm thankful, I am sorry to say it did not improve my coordination one bit. She did teach me how to get taller, however; one summer day, we were hanging out on the swingset when she taught me a trick for getting taller that she learned on The Brady Bunch. "Hang," she said, and climbed high enough to hang from one of the monkey bars. It only worked for one of us, as she does not quite clear my nose at present.

Her grandmother made these excellent grilled cheese sandwiches. I liked my mom's, but Grandma Sicola made them with different cheese. It was good stuff.

My mom took me to get my ears pierced. She called me while I was at my best friend's house. Her ears were already pierced, of course. I assume we were playing Strawberry Shortcake that day.

Running down the stairs and yelling "BANGBANGBANGBANG!" was hilarious to us. It still is, actually.

It turns out that I actually did bring something to the table in our friendship. I did not find this out until I was in my thirties, but it turns out I am the reason she is a Cubs fan. I had dinner with her parents one night in 2008 when her dad told me he had been mad at me for that. I did not understand, until he explained that right after they moved to Connecticut as a family, I wrote Andrea a handwritten letter (back in a computer-free era), complaining about how the Cubs blew it in the playoffs yet again.

She took the letter to her dad and said, "Who are the Cubs?"

As it goes, he was a White Sox fan and a Houston Astros fan, which was his hometown team. She had no idea there was another baseball team in Chicago.

Oh, by the read that correctly. Her family did not move from Downers Grove to Woodridge...they moved from Downers Grove to Ridgefield, Connecticut. And we stayed good enough friends where were were Maids of Honor at each other's weddings.

When she was getting married, her friend Heather hosted a bachelorette weekend in Miami. I did not tell my best friend that I was going to the party. Instead, when she was walking from the airport to the car, I popped out of the back seat and took her picture. She looks so excited in that photo, but the hilarious part is that she did not realize it was me until after the photo was taken. That was when the real freakout happened.

On my way to Sydney in 1995, I scheduled my layover in Los Angeles, where she was living, for the entire day. We laughed. We cried about boyfriends. We hugged. And then I flew to Sydney.

She brought her boyfriend to Chicago for a visit. It was my big chance to meet him, size him up. It took me all of ten seconds to realize she found the right guy. That was around the turn of the millenium, if you needed perspective.

I went to her high school graduation. She visited me in college.

When my dad died, she drove the seven hours from Tampa to Santa Rosa Beach for the memorial and started crying the moment she walked in the door. She then looked at me and started laughing because she knew she was going to cry the moment she walked in the door. I thought the best thing to do was to laugh and cry at the same time with her.

I high-tailed it to Florida, where she was living, shortly after she had her baby. Kayli was nine months old when I was there...Kayli was crying, so she went into Kayli's room. She looked at her child, not even old enough to talk, and said, "You're faking it!" Kayli stopped crying. Magic.

We saw Dane Cook together. Earlier that day, we went to Starbucks.

Some of her favorites:  Target, Rush, The Karate Kid, her old Nissan Pathfinder...and obviously, Dane Cook and Starbucks. Rush...well...there was mooning and a moving car the weekend of her high school graduation, and that is all I will say on that topic.

I met up with her in Seattle once...I was living in Portland, and one of her other best friends was getting married. I was invited to the wedding on a whim, and I had the honor of driving a bunch of bridesmaids in puffy blue dresses around downtown Seattle in my teeny car. She felt one of her friends was not treating me well, and she made that known in a classy but firm way. She defended me when I didn't even know defense was necessary.

I am behind. She only knows goodness, passion, love, charm, and right from wrong...nothing else. I am a year behind, and about seven thousand steps behind in the "good person" department. As she likes to say about others, but needs to hear it more about herself, "She is just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside."

So I thought the least I could do was sing her praises a day early.

Miss Andrea, here's to another forty years, and if you don't mind, I would like to continue being your oldest, bestest buddy at least until I figure out how to be you. Thank you for making me realize, pretty much daily, that I still have a ways to go to reach amazing. It is the most flattering form of envy. Take it that way.