From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

Nancy and Caroline

Friends are people who help you be more yourself, more the person you are intended to be.

Merle Shain

I came upon the photograph during a recent purge of the old secretary-style desk in the den. It was yellowed with age and almost terminally bent, but if I looked hard enough, I could still make out the figures of two little girls, arms wrapped around one another, smiling into the camera.

What a flood of memories that old photograph brought!

It was from twenty-four years ago when the subjects, our youngest daughter, Nancy, and Caroline, the beautiful child with the shiny brown hair and the enormous brown eyes, were eight years old.

They were best friends. Absolutely bound to each other.

Nancy and Caroline had found one another back in the carpentry corner at nursery school, and had never let go.

No traditional role-playing for these tiny feminists who preferred driving stubby little nails into little slabs of wood to dressing Barbie dolls. It was a friendship that was meant to be.

By the second grade, Nancy and Caroline had become a notorious twosome. Bonded. Attached at the soul.

“I’m going to separate you girls,” their long-suffering teacher threatened almost daily. But she, too, saw something so touching—so fierce—about their loyalty to each other that she never could do it.

But in third grade, they were plunked down in different classrooms. Bereft at first, they had railed at the Fates. But they had still managed to find each other whenever they could—at recess, in the lunch line, on the school bus.

“Save me a seat!” never needed to be said. Not between best friends.

So they had played double Dutch until their feet blistered. And they had walked uptown for double-dip ice creams on Saturday afternoons. Then, they had weathered the storms of blemishes and training bras, bewildering bodies and boys, and parents who didn’t understand them anymore. Through it all, they had each other, relied on each other.

And they had thought it would last forever.

Until one day, in a voice choked with sobs, Caroline had said the unthinkable: “I’m moving.”

Moving. The word made no sense to either of them.

“Not fair!” our Nancy lamented. “Not one bit fair!”

“I’m not going,” Caroline had said darkly.

And there were desperate phone conversations and whispered plans that both girls knew would never come to pass. Dramatic value aside, there was no way that these two could halt destiny.

Sure enough, one miserable day the for-sale sign went up on the lawn of Caroline’s house. And too soon, too heart-stoppingly soon, the sold sign was plastered over it, and there was a moving truck in her driveway. In a blink, three burly movers were carrying out the kitchen table, the den sofa and the stuffed animals that two little girls had cuddled on the long, precipitous journey from childhood to adolescence.

People were too busy that day to really notice two fourteen-year-old girls in matching jeans, standing together in the gathering dusk trying to figure out how to say good-bye to each other.

But when I looked at that fading picture of Nancy and Caroline, snapped so long ago, I remembered another image, this one of two girls standing on the lawn of a house with a sold sign, tears streaming unashamedly down their cheeks.

On that day, two of tender age were learning one of life’s most enduring lessons: There’s never another best friend quite like your first.

Sally Friedman

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