Wendy and I met when we were seven. I took one look at the new kid and knew she'd be my best friend. Eventually. She was short and round and had the straightest, whitest teeth I'd ever seen. Her smile made me want to smile. Still does.
The early years weren't all smooth sailing. We didn't become bosom-buddies immediately and stay that way. There were fights and arguments and long periods when we simply didn't talk to each other. But by the time we started high school, we were inseparable. I thought we'd be like that forever.
Then Wendy left town.
I remember writing long letters to her and waiting anxiously for a reply. I understood she had things happening in her life that meant she wouldn't write immediately but a letter always arrived and it brightened my days. She meant the world to me.
She came back home for a visit once and I remember spotting her down the end of our street. Both of us just squeeled and took off running - towards each other - and ended up collapsing in a heap of laughter in the middle of the street. It's always like that when I see her. The sheer joy of being alive and with her.
We've known each other 40 years now. We've had our children and lived our very separate lives. Sometimes we've lived in the same town, sometimes not. Once we didn't contact each other for 18 months. I think I lost her address and she thought I was angry about something. I don't remember. I just know when we found each other again everything was the same. Something in my life clicked into place and became whole again.
We have absolutely nothing in common. She like cutesy poetry, chain emails and country-western music. I like antique furniture and symphonies. She looks at me as though she thinks I was abandoned by aliens. She calls me a snob (in the nicest possible way). I look at her and think surely only abduction by aliens could sort her head out. I call her mad (in the nicest possible way). But none of it matters. Underneath all the teasing and the differences we hold the same values close to our hearts. I admire her and respect her more than I do most people I've known, even if I don't agree with all of the decisions she's made. I know she feels the same about me.
I think you only have so much time in your life for friends so the number of friends you have are necessarily limited. Wendy and I don't need each other in our daily lives, we just need to know we're there, each for the other. And if I ever run out of time for friends, she'll be the last to be crossed off the list.