Last week, I got an email from the person I’ve known the longest. That is how we refer to each other. When she got the birth announcement introducing her to my daughter (almost seven years ago) she told her daughter, “This is from the person I’ve known the longest.” When my mother died, I called the person I’ve known the longest. I recently showed my daughter her picture and said, “This is E. She is the person I’ve known the longest.”
We met when we were 3 or so. She was my first friend. My first sleepover. Our parents split around the same time and there were many overnights at her house while our parents did what single parents did back then. Her older brother would torment us while we curled up in her mother’s bed and watched one of about five available TV channels.
We went to kindergarten together and one of my favorite childhood pictures is the two of us, in our Halloween costumes (she was a clown, I was a witch – no comments please), during the traditional parade – one of our mothers nearby with an Instamatic camera to capture the moment. We celebrated many birthdays –mine in the summer and hers in the fall. I remember her dog and how he loved to grab the hem of our bell bottoms and pull. Her cat had kittens – often. I was finally allowed to adopt one that was sort of like the demon seed of cats – at least according to my stepfather. I spent more time at her house than she at mine and I can draw the floor plan as if I was in it yesterday. I know the cabinet where they kept the snacks was to the left of the sliding door that led to the back. I remember laughing - a lot. I remember her brother annoying us often but he was actually as common a figure in those times as she was.
After elementary school, my family moved and we drifted apart. We would occasionally re-connect and ultimately went to the same high school. We remained friendly. We didn’t often hang out together but I never thought of her as anything less than friend.
I didn't want to go to my 10th high school reunion. One of the only reasons I went was because the person I’ve known the longest was going. I remember going to her house – it was exactly the same. Her mother was there - she looked and sounded exactly the same. Seeing her was worth the other five hours of reunion bullshit.
We lost touch over the years and once in a great while, would find one another. Email has made things a bit easier but she is coming into the technological times kicking and screaming. Still, over the years I was thrilled to see pictures of her wedding and her children. I was thrilled for her success and happiness – and had (and have) a sense of pride that she's my friend.
When we talk, it is safe and familiar. I recognize her voice. We can pick up where we left off with no thought to the many months or years of no communication. My family asks if I’ve heard from her. They always refer to with her first and last (maiden) name. No idea why but it makes me giggle.
Her son is going off to college, her daughter in high school. She lives on the other side of the country. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen her in the past decade. Our lives have zero in common other than our childhood – and that we are the person the other has known the longest. It’s like a secret club without the handshake.
She finally joined Facebook, where she’ll probably never post and may never have more than five friends. I’m so glad I’m one of them. After all, she’s the person I’ve known the longest. And, my friend.