When we moved to Belgium, I was bussed for an hour, over the border to Holland, to start middle school at an international and military brat school. My brother and sister were in the elementary school at our local base, and I didn't see them at all except in the evenings and on the weekends. They made Belgian friends in the neighborhood, but my friends were a group of girls that lived over an hour away. Becky and Jill were friends first, then Becky and I joined together, united in our love of drawing, and then the circle widened to include more like-minded friends: Karin, Angelica, Denise, Kelly, Julie, Robin.
They had the advantage friendship-wise, because they all lived closer together, in The Netherlands, and could get together more often, but we held tight to our friendship. We called ourselves the LLG, which stood for Los Lindos Gatos (the pretty (or cute) cats). I don't remember WHY we chose that name, unless it was because I was obsessed with cats, and someone else was learning Spanish, but we were a small gang who drew comics, passed notes in class, laughed our heads off at anything and everything, and stuck together. After about a year, our group started breaking up, reforming and changing, as families were stationed elsewhere. Becky left in the middle of our ninth grade year, and I felt like part of me had left with her. We wrote long, silly letters to each other and tried to fill the hole left in each of us with other friends, but for me, at least, it didn't work. Not until I moved away, too, and met my next best friend.
We moved to Germany and ended up living in a high-rise building, on the twelfth and top floor. Several floors below lived the Malones, and the oldest daughter, Debbie, and I became friends. I practically lived in their apartment. They were 4 kids, and Debbie was actually a grade below me, but at home, we hung out together. We were in choir and sang everywhere we went. I became good friends with her younger sister, as well, while my brother ended up best friends with her youngest brother. I had other friends, of course, but Debbie was always my best friend.
After high school, we returned to the States, and after a humid summer sweating in Maryland, while my parents house-hunted and my dad started his post-Air Force job with the NSA, I left and went to Michigan State to start college. The very first year, on my floor, I met Julie, who would eventually become both my roommate for 2 years and my best friend. We stuck together through so much: canoe trips, relationships, learning how to be adults, navigating university.
When I moved to Chicago after I finally graduated, I lived again with Julie, and another friend/roommate of ours from MSU. She got married (to a friend of ours from college, no less) and moved away and eventually I met Anders and moved in with him. And then we moved to Sweden. Almost immediately, I was invited to meet some of the other Americans in the area, and we started the AWC and I had another gang of friends. Kathey, who was my best friend, Angie, Kelly, Emily, Debbie. For some years, we ran the AWC and had huge amounts of fun at events and activities, playing games and reading books together. We had small children and bought houses, and got jobs, and then Kathey and her husband Russell, who has also become a great friend, moved away, and we slowly started growing apart under the pressures of all that real life.
Debbie started the Wonders, a dinner group with 5 of us, meeting once every couple of months. It was a fantastic way to reconnect and it worked for several years, until once again, distance and other obligations and, I think, the weight of our friendship, in some ways, threatened to dissolve the bonds we had all had. Eventually, it was mostly Debbie and I trying to keep it going, and we finally gave it up. In the meantime, our friend Camilla, who had been living and working in Poland for many years, moved home to Sweden. She had been Kathey's Swedish tutor way back in the day, and had joined the AWC for a brief while before she moved away. Every time she was back in Sweden, we'd get together for lunch or dinner and it was, like it has been with all my best friends, as if we'd never been apart.
Now, my best friends, here, are the two of them. We meet as frequently as we can, and I cherish the times we have together. We talk about so much, and they are both sounding boards and therapists as well as the best of friends for me. I STILL consider my best friends to be those who I love and hold in my heart from afar: Becky, Debbie, Julie, Kathey, but I'm so grateful that I have these two women here as well, to keep me grounded, to make me laugh, to give me a literal shoulder to cry on. I'm truly blessed by all the girlfriends and best friends I have had in my life. I don't know what I would have done without them.
*hard to find and lucky to have (Irish proverb)