This I Believe

Beverly - Woodbridge, Virginia
Entered on December 24, 2005
Age Group: 30 - 50

Childhood friendships can change your life forever

It was the first day of first grade when I met Laura and her mother told her not to go home with anyone that day and yet she came home with me. We were five years old and quickly became best, inseparable friends. Those early years of our friendship were spent learning cursive handwriting, playing store with moss and acorn cups, and sharing Lifesavers. Those years laid the foundation of a lifetime of love between us. Laura and I were perfectly suited for each other — she liked the red and purple Lifesavers, I liked the green and yellow — and so it went on for four years until her family moved out to the country. Our parents were wiser than we knew and respected the strong connection that had grown between us, so we’d meet halfway at a McDonalds to pick one of us up to go visit the other. Especially in the summertime.

Those summer visits in the country were simple: fishing in the Shenandoah river with a stick, yarn and a safety pin, popping tar bubbles on the road on a steaming summer day, making disgusting sandwich combinations that only her German Shepard would eat. What we felt but didn’t have words for was the unconditional love and acceptance of another human being. Being loved “as-is”.

As we moved into our teenage years, we grew fascinated with boys and drifted apart. Our lives took different paths and yet that love never changed. In our early twenties we sought each other out again. We spent one especially poignant evening in her apartment eating Spaghettios with Meatballs (our all-time favorite) and sharing the deepest, most painful secrets of our lives.

A few years later I married and she told my husband “take good care of her, she belongs to you now”. Within 18 months Laura had died, her suicide broke me apart. In those early months after her death, I’d play Billy Joel songs (her favorite) and eat Spaghettios and Meatballs after visiting her grave in the Shenandoah countryside. My daughter was born two years after her death and I missed Laura that night as I lay in the hospital with my baby, her namesake in my arms. Laura had many nicknames and “Laura-Lou” eventually led to “Louise” — my pet name for her. So that night we named my daughter “Helen Louise” in loving tribute to the little girl who showed me all about friendship and love.

It’s been 10 years since Laura’s death, my own marriage has ended, and there have been dark and fearful times. But I have wonderful friends in my life who have carried me through those times. I know that because I know what true friendship looks like, feels like. I learned it all from Laura.