25 April 2010

LIFE: My Best Friend

My Best Friend and her husband

SARONNO, Italy - After a whirlwind two week visit my best friend flew back to the USA on Friday. The house seems strangely empty without her. The other day we figured out that we have been friends for more than 50 years. We met when we were just kids in school and have been sharing the changes in our lives ever since those long ago days. We promised to be "old ladies together forever", and so we are.

For me, she is the sister I never had, for her, I am the sister she never had to live with. As young marrieds our kids were the first in our town to have “two” mothers, although she did more actual mothering than I ever did.

Fisherman's Island, Lago Maggiore

We’ve been down many a long road together, often living miles and oceans apart, but always connected. From the onset I was the adventurous one, the one who always had to know what was around the corner and over the hill. She was more settled, content to stay and be nurtured by her family and friends.

But it wasn’t that she didn’t dream of far-away places too. California was high on her list. As far back as high school she talked about wanting to see San Francisco and years later when I moved there I was very disappointed that she never came to see me. I was living in the city of her dreams and yet the idea of flying across America, even with her husband, was apparently a bit too overwhelming. Knowing that, you can understand why making this trip to Italy by herself was such a momentous event - for both of us.

Milan's Cathedral

I remember how uneasy I felt when she moved from our home town to a house on a river in upstate New York and back again, and then, after her husband died another move, this time alone to Buffalo, New York to be near her youngest daughter and help out with the grandchildren.

Galleria, Milan

Without a doubt there was a little part of me that needed her to be in place, a touchstone that I could return to every now and again and maybe a little part of her needed me to bring the world to her. In the end it never really mattered. Our friendship has endured decades in spite of, or maybe because of our differences.

Santa Margherita Ligure, Italian Riviera

Through the years she has followed my moves from one town and country to another, most with unpronounceable names. She has tried to imagine what tapperelle look like, questioned why we have bidets and marveled at living in a place where you can go to Switzerland for lunch and be home before dark.

Rapallo, Italian Riviera

So now she has seen all of those things and more. She has traveled to the Italian Riviera and stood at the edge of the Mediteranean Sea. She has walked the shores of Lake Como and understands why George Clooney bought a house there. She's ridden on buses and trolleys, funiculares that go up steep hills, subways that whizz along the underbelly of a city, boats that skim along deep blue lakes and trains that take you along the edges of the snow capped pre-alps of Switzerland. With constant good humor she experienced just about every form of public transportation known to modern man and survived. No small feat for someone who hasn't been on public transportation since she was 14 years old. 

Lake Lugano, Switzerland

In my heart I know she will never make this trip again and she knows I probably won’t make it back to the States any time soon, so this is a very difficult moment for both of us. I'm going to miss her. She makes me a better person and I, hopefully, expand her world. But it’s more than that. We have a deep and lasting connection that will endure no matter where we are and when we are no more.


“This is our last day,” she said to me on Thursday morning, “we have to enjoy it.” And so we did. 

Photos: Some of the places we visited.


  1. I love this, thanks for reminding us how important our bfs are no matter how are lives change. Strangely serendipidous with my own experience..

  2. How interesting to see my mother, not as a mother but as a woman, not as a grandmother but as a friend. Phyl's friend. She's always been Phyl's friend. You describe yourself as our surrogate mother, but I always saw you as a friend to me as well. You always made me feel so special and worthy. The picture when Joey, Steph and I were little kids taken by someone you knew - boyfriend maybe, photographer, friend - they so striking and me so plain. But it didn't matter, you made me feel beautiful just the way I looked. The contrast is what made that photograph art. Your note is about a contrast, between two women choosing different paths, but giving each other a richness not to be experienced alone. No one would have noticed a photograph of just me, but everyone noticed me in that photograph. You gave that confidence, independence, strength to me and you gave that to my mother. Thank you.