Do you — or did you ever — have a Best Friend? Do you believe in the idea of one person whose friendship matters the most? Tell us a story about your BFF (or lack thereof).

My best friend ever was my neighbor Susan. She and I were a year apart in age, but spent a great deal of our free time together from ages 9-18. We were quite different, but somehow we just hit it off and had so much fun together. Those were the days when kids roamed free and spent most of the time in the summer outside, though even in Ohio, it can get too hot to do that. Fortunately, Susan had a great above-ground pool and sometimes we’d spend so much time in there that out skin got wrinkled. Sometimes we’d do nothing, and still enjoy one another’s company. I have great memories of my childhood and Susan plays a big part in those memories.

In high school I was part of a group, but though I was well accepted by my friends, only one was a “best” friend — that was Claudia. I even stayed in touch with her after we started college — that’s unusual. One of our bonds, I think, was the fact that she had lost her mom to breast cancer, and I lost my dad to mental illness (suicide). If you haven’t been through that loss, it’s hard to understand it, and most teens haven’t. That meant I could talk to Claudia more freely than some of my other cool friends. And we were the cool group in high school.

One of my best friends during my two years in college in Ohio was an African American young woman, Carolyn. We just shared so many of the same ideas and were interested in the same things, that we became fast friends. It was kind of strange sometimes though: even though I had no racial prejudices, I noted sometimes that when we went places, we got “looks”. This was in the late 1960’s when civil rights was an omnipresent issue. The Selma to Birmingham march had just taken place in 1965, the same year the Voting Rights Act had passed. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act banned discrimination based on “race, color, religion, or national origin” in employment practices and public accommodations. This, of course, didn’t end discrimination in people’s minds and actions — that was a process, and one that had been developing for at least 100 years. After I transferred to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, I lost touch with Carolyn, but she was a significant friend with great intelligence and a wonderful sense of humor — I can still see her laugh!

At St. Andrews, getting best friends took a while, but by my last year I had a solid group and we were almost always together. Boy, was it hard to go from that to the working world, and not have that close camaraderie. As close as we were, we kept in touch only for a short while after college. There is only one college friend I have always stayed in touch with, and I think that’s because she always accepted me and liked me despite all my craziness, mood-changes, heartbreaks, etc. She was like an anchor for me. Sheila.

The period of my life where I have felt a lack of friends is as an adult, especially when my children were young. If it weren’t for working after my four kids were in school I’d still feel that absence of close friends. I’ve collected a few from my work teaching in the last 15 years and I value them. The problem is that as you get older and your family gains a new generation, that’s where you want and need to put your social and emotional efforts. I sometimes feel my friends get a short shrift, because it’s family first. It would be nice though, very nice, to have a special friend with whom I could share my innermost thoughts and feelings. The only one who fills that bill is my sister. We’re not only related, but have a great and open relationship. We’ve both had a lot of ups and downs in our lives, and because of that we know we can share anything. Fortunately (except when we were kids with a large age-gap) we’ve never been competitive or jealous of one another, or bickering. I know of a lot of older siblings who do that, and I have a hard time understanding it.

I memorized this poem as a kid:

Friendship is a treasured gift
We cannot sell nor buy
Nor loan, nor borrow, nor exchange
No matter how we try.

But friendship is a thing that’s owned
By folks like you and me
Because God loves us everyone
And gives it to us free.