From 7th grade through 12th, I had a best friend. Annie Batchelder and I hung out together at school every day. We whispered and giggled in study hall until the librarian separated us. Then we learned sign language, so we could communicate from opposite tables. We talked to each other on the phone every single night. Often, I spent the night at her house.
After my sophomore year in college, my mother moved from Omaha, where I had grown up, back to her native Connecticut. Annie and I lost touch for many years. When I finally made a visit back to Omaha 26 years later, we were both nervous, for our lives, our politics, and our professional paths had diverged widely. But as soon as we walked out of the airport and got into her car, it was as if two embers touched and burst into flame. We talked on and on for days, ranging from one subject to another, as fascinated as ever with each other’s lives. We’ve stayed in touch ever since, if infrequently.
I think that, for the past 40 years, I’ve been looking for a new best friend. Every time I meet an interesting new woman, I have the same reaction that some people have when they’re eyeing the field for a prospective mate: Is this the one?
It’s never quite worked out that way. I have many very dear friends throughout the U.S. and in several other countries, but there’s no one I talk to every day (nor would I really want to), no one with whom I share a conviction that we know each other better than anyone else does (though my friends and I are very open and honest with each other).
Of course, I’m also a different person from who I was in Omaha. There I was a misfit—a scholarship student living in a duplex with my divorced mother, when the other kids in my school came from wealthy two-parent families. My best friend, along with her family and home, which I adored, were my refuge. I’m no longer frantically treading water as I try to paddle toward some (any!) shore.
Still, part of me longs for the regularity, the dependability of a best friend. I’d like to know who I’d automatically call in case of an emergency. I’d like to truly feel at home in another person’s house. I’d like to giggle with someone again.
I think I’ll call Annie and see what she’s up to.
Photo above: Annie (r) and me, senior year in high school, Brownell Hall, Omaha, Nebraska.