I met my first best friend, Diane, on the first day of kindergarten. She rode with me on bus #5, and she sat with her big sister, Amy. In a foreshadowing of my future life, I sat down in the seat across the row and turned to them and asked their names. I promptly forgot the names, but I stuck with them when we got to the school, down the stairs and into the room on the left.
Later, probably not the next day, but in my mind it sticks together with the bus ride introduction, I sat by Diane as Mrs. Mouser reviewed addresses. She asked us each our zip code. We were both 43345 and we thought this was a sure sign we were destined to be BFF forever. (Nevermind you, the class was divided by town – all Ridgeway kids went in the AM, the Mt. Victory kids in the PM. Which means, every single kid in our class was a 43345. But, whatever man. Destiny.)
I managed to keep her around through my elementary years – even when the 80s fashions were at their height and I wore biker shorts under everything. We were equally book nerdish-enough to not apologize for spending the weekend reading The Babysitter’s Club newest release. We would regularly stay the night at one another’s house and staying at her house on a Saturday was a special big deal for me because that meant I went to church with her on Sunday. Though I often went with my mom to our own little country church, her church was something else. Their sanctuary! It was huge! I returned to that church years later, on Diane’s wedding day, to discover the room seemed so large because I was so small. As a 23-year-old, the sanctuary was quite ordinary.
Diane and I played in the band, rode bikes, and explored the outdoors. I helped her with her chores in the dairy barn. Her dad teased me about anything and remains one of the most hilarious people in my memory. I saw my first living being birthed in their barn – a small calf, which the mother had trouble delivering. John had to help pull it out. Diane’s mom asked questions about our days and our friends and when we were disappointed she would sympathize, saying, “aw, bummer!” She would serve us breakfast of fried doughnuts, made from those biscuits in a can, fried in a fry daddy and tossed in a bag of sugar, with a side of whole milk, straight from the cow. Or Tang.
In our teenage years, we parted ways. It was amicable, mostly a result of interests – I took readily to sports and cheerleading and she enjoyed band and music. We ended up in different classes, only seeing one another in Spanish or Advanced Math. She started dating her boyfriend-now-husband and I flitted around social circles as the seasons changed.
In my more typical teenage raucous years, as rumors piled up, Diane never treated me differently. I think it was one of those things where you love a person at a deeper level – not for how they act in a given day or year, but for the true nature of the person you know them to be. Maybe she did roll her eyes or shake her head – but I never knew. She treated me as a good friend would, and that’s what mattered to me.
A friend once told me Diane’s mom had called my mom with concern about my behavior. I have no idea if it was true or if my friend made it up. I didn’t respond with fear – I felt loved. Someone cared enough to ask. Someone cared enough to call. It was a brave thing that her mom did, if the tale is true. I hope I have that kind of bravery in my soul, that kind of love for another person’s child, to call up a fellow mom and say, “hey, is everything okay?”
JJ told me that a boy in H’s class referred to my son as “his best friend.” This is the first time in his nearly seven years of life that the title has been spoken. I’m thankful another person on this planet appreciates him, and even elevates him to a VIP level. The boys trade Lego love and he’s coming over to play this week. It’s a special time, probably more for me than even him. I’m anticipating many years of sleepovers and pizza nights and baseball games and lego-athons.
There are no guarantees that my kids will develop the kind of relationship that Diane and I shared, one that I revere still today. I realize kids tend to have hot-then-cold patterns to friends and things change over time. I feel it would be a tad bold to ask God to give each of my kids a Diane, though I would be thankful if He did. I do hope my kids each find families full of Bettingers. Good people who hold hands as they pray and work hard and ask us to each pitch in as we visit. People who make you feel loved and accepted and welcomed.
But I can’t control their friends, nor even their choice of friendships. I can’t dictate them to my choice of friends or families and it wouldn’t be fair of me to do so. What I can control is what I offer to the future BFF’s of my children. I can fry the (gf) doughnuts and offer to take them to church. I can listen to their stories from school and create space in my household where they feel safe and free and alive and loved. I can care enough to call in those troubling years – not judge or advise, but to listen and to be present.
I want them to have friendships filled with enjoyment and like interests and special secrets. I want to give them a place to keep that friendship safe, alive and even sacred.