Almost 13 years ago, on my 15th birthday, I dragged myself out of bed to the first day of my sophomore year. Since I went to a tech school, I was kicking off the year in shop. I’d chosen Culinary, but was already regretting my choice. I knew they were going to make me take off my black nail polish, and I hated bare nails. I straightened my hair, packed my checked chef’s uniform, and left the nail polish on. They could go screw.
I was in what I now lovingly refer to as my Goth stage. And you know what? I may wear non-black clothing now, but once you go Goth, you never really go back.
Silently vowing to tell no one it was my birthday, lest they make a big stupid deal out of it, I sat in the theory room while Chef Curry took attendance and gave us our morning theory lesson. I’d loved him my freshman year, but for some reason, he kept referring to me as “Sandra,” and it was getting on my last nerve. I’d noticed there was a new girl but didn’t care. I wasn’t really friends with anyone, and I didn’t plan on changing that.
Still, as the morning passed, all of the chefs kept mistaking me for this Sandra. It pissed me off.
“Liz. I’m Liz,” I reminded Chef Curry yet again, even as he ordered me over to pot sink—punishment for the nail polish.
Then, for the first time, I came face to face with her.
“Sandy,” she introduced herself. Neither of us loved our full names.
We sized each other up. I showed her how the pot sink worked—wash, rinse, bleach, dry—and we realized we’d both been banished to that station because we both had nail polish on. She wasn’t so bad, I decided. We also realized that the chefs had been confusing us all morning. They thought we were twins. As the day wore on, this bothered us less and less. As the years have passed, we’ve long gotten used to it. It’s even worked to our advantage.
13 years of friendship. Most people would consider that unlucky, but neither of us believe in that kind of thing. Fate, though… I wonder, sometimes.
We don’t always see eye to eye, but we tell each other like it is. Our bond runs deeper than blood and, though I’m not religious and don’t believe in any kind of higher power, sometimes I wonder if it was meant to be. Because even though over the years the landscape of our friendship has changed—babies, marriages, careers—its substance has not. It’s grown deeper, if anything.
She’s seen me through some impossibly difficult times. Even when I completely broke and pushed everyone away, she pushed right back. I’ve seen her birth babies while juggling serious health conditions. She raises her children with gentle love and iron integrity, and chases her dreams with laser focus and shining talent. She cheers me on even long after I’ve lost my drive and I’m only stubbornly tripping forward. Girl’s got fantastic taste in music, books, and movies. Her eye for detail and the photos she captures are stunning.
It’s almost eerie, how we can read each other’s thoughts and emotions even while miles apart. You could say it’s the long years of companionship, but we were doing that even when we were teenagers.
On that first day, I confessed to her that it was my birthday. This was sometime after the pot sink faucet shot off the sink and into the high ceiling, soaking us both through, and before she slipped and fell flat on her back in the cafeteria. That’s another trait we have in common: utter clumsiness. I’m pretty sure those two moments sealed the deal.
I love this woman to pieces and would do anything for her. It sounds cliche but it’s true. I do, and I have—and vice versa. I couldn’t have picked a better lifelong friend.
Happy National Best Friends Day, my love. Here’s to almost 13 years—your favorite number—and many, many more.