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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

My Last Best Friend

Adult friendship is a hard thing. For me anyway. When we were kids it was different. You had a class together or your parents were friends or maybe they were the only other kid in your school who didn't go skiing over Christmas break. It was simple to make friends then. No children to compete with, no spouse whose opinion also needs to be taken into account. Maybe that's why I made my last Best Friend more than 15 years ago.

If you met us now you'd likely say we couldn't possibly live more different lives. She's a big shot doctor, she spent the last two years living abroad and vacationing in far-flung places like Fiji. She hasn't had any kids yet, let alone 4.

But a few weeks back, she finally got married. And when your last Best Friend ties the knot, you show up regardless of how far away it is and no matter the backbends you have to do to find childcare. B Daddy and I walked into the wedding and immediately saw faces I haven't seen since my freshman year of college. Suddenly it was August of the year 2000. W. was running for president, Napster was the new thing and it was move-in day for Mell Hall on the campus of the University of Georgia.

I remember the moment I turned into my small dorm room, the last one on the right, and saw a petite blond trying to cram a year's worth of clothing into an 18 inch wide closet cubby. She and I would share this little 10x12 domicile for the next 10 months. We spent that afternoon lofting our beds and trying to neatly arrange our CD collections on the flimsy wire shelves we'd put together from Bed, Bath and Beyond.

On and off throughout the afternoon we heard shuffling and mild arguing from a room across the hall. Upon inspection, there was a family: a mom, a dad and two sisters, struggling to assemble the fanciest computer desk I'd ever seen.  Atop the massive desk sat a sleek black flat screen monitor. It was the type of desk I imagined day traders and air traffic controllers had. Whoever this girl was, her dorm room was outfitted way nicer than my bedroom at home.

The owner of the sleek black monitor turned out to be Elizabeth. She had her own cell phone too, the kind that flipped open and had a tiny antennae you'd pull up at the start of a call. No one I knew had a cell phone like that in the year 2000. She was larger than life. With a swagger that radiated from her North Face jacket all the way down to her Birkenstocks, she'd crash down the hall at 1am singing Dave Matthews and intruding upon those of us careless enough to leave our doors unlocked.

She was a big fish from the kind of Southern city where everybody knows everybody, a Catholic who drank religiously. I was an unknown from Chicago, an evangelical who preferred Bible study to the bar scene.

Within a week, Elizabeth and I were inseparable.

She was a pre-med major hell-bent on becoming a plastic surgeon. She was outspoken about politics, a fiery Conservative who wrote a scathing indictment on the immorality of the estate tax for her freshman PoliSci class. I was a business major with little idea what I wanted from life other than to travel after graduation- and I had never heard of the estate tax.

We were both ambitious, smart and confident. We were both athletic, determined and outgoing. There was a spark to our friendship that I haven't experienced since. Together we auditioned for a reality TV show, argued against speeding tickets in traffic court, snuck into the Georgia Theatre and ran the length of Sanford Stadium at midnight. She encouraged me to go for it when my pragmatic side wanted to hang back and I like to think I helped ensure we never got arrested. She was fierce, opinionated and never (to her knowledge) wrong. I was much the same way, and our fights became the fodder of hall gossip all year long.

She joined my Bible study and challenged me to integrate my life and my faith. I joined her at the bars and taught her it was possible to dance sober. We weathered multiple college boyfriends together, always finding our way to each other again after the latest relationship ended.

After graduation I came to Atlanta and saved up to travel. To visit a boy who became The Boy. She headed off to medical school to pursue her dream of wielding a scalpel and making big bucks. And things changed. We changed. There were births and deaths and new relationships and a distance came between us. I watched her life unfold on Facebook like we all do now, but we never really talked save for a few phone calls scattered across a few years.

Then I saw she got engaged. And a few months later she reached out to ask for my address. Without a second thought we made plans to attend, but I wasn't entirely sure we'd be able to hold a conversation anymore.

But when I saw her for the first time in years, YEARS-wearing a veil and a strapless white dress- it took all my self-control not to shout her name and wave grinning like a fool as she walked down the aisle. Hey!!! It's Me. ME! Best Friend! Over here! HI! The instant it was socially acceptable I ran like a little girl in my grown-up dress to give her a huge hug. And we hugged and laughed and later we danced like the past 15 years hadn't pulled us apart.

C.S. Lewis writes that friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. ...It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival. 

And I have to agree. I've survived just fine without Elizabeth all these years. But being together again reminded me that her presence sheds light into a corner of my soul that grows dim otherwise. And it was wonderful to be all lit up for the night.



11 comments:

  1. That was a great read Katie! And I remember ole Elizabeth back in the college days!

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    1. Thanks Shaun! We spent plenty of nights watching UGA baseball together simply because we might get to see you play :)

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  2. What a cool reminiscence of a first meeting, developing close friendship and reconnection. Love the writer's voice and style as well as her obvious deep friendship for her college buddy. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. What a cool reminiscence of a first meeting, developing close friendship and reconnection. Love the writer's voice and style as well as her obvious deep friendship for her college buddy. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Katie, I have no words...other than I feel the same way. I miss you and love to reminisce about our crazy life of years past. love you and love that whenever we do have the chance to catch up, we never skip a beat. I cherish you as a friend more than you know. Thank you for this :)

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    1. Hey Unknown ;) I'm glad you read it. Hope I did your year 2000 self justice. There really aren't words. Looking forward to our next time together.

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  5. I loved reading and laughing out loud to this Katie, thank you! You really captured Elizabeth's joy and passion for life. I'm a very lucky girl. Please don't be a stranger, you're welcome anytime.

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    1. Thank you Michele! Saying I captured something of that girl's joie de vivre is a HUGE compliment. We would love to come visit next summer, hoping to get to know YOU as well!

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