What is Life Without a Best Friend?

Momservation: The greatest validation of self-worth is having a best friend who concurs with your fabulousness.

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Her name was Robin.

I don’t remember what initially drew me to her, but she must’ve told me I was pretty. Or that I was fast. Maybe because she also hated spiders and touching her feet to the floor in the darkness of the night. It could’ve been that we both liked looking for ladybugs in the tall grass of spring or that we both hated when our older siblings wouldn’t let us tag along. Maybe it was as simple as proximity.

She was my neighbor. She was my best friend.

Robin was two years younger than me and five years-old when I met her. I’d just moved into the neighborhood, leaving behind family, friends, and familiarity. I had been sitting on the curb of our new house, waiting for the moving truck to unload my blue bicycle with the banana seat and remaining faded handlebar streamers. As soon as the movers swung open the truck doors revealing my bike, I jumped up to claim the vehicle that would be my escape from the anger and despair that threatened to sour my adoring love for my parents.

I don’t remember asking for permission to ride down the street—these were the days of being home before dark, no other tether tying us to parental supervision. I just remember wishing Monterey wasn’t two hours from Concord so I could ride back home.

I made it three doors down when I first spotted Robin. She and her twin brother were standing in a green hauling trailer, unhitched in the neighbor’s yard. Standing side-by-side their hands clasping the downward tilted trailer, their matching brown-haired heads and freckled noses followed me as I rode by. Though I only peeked at them in periphery, set on my mission to outride my discontent, I could tell I had an admiring audience.

A few houses past them I decided to circle back.

I rode swiftly by, showing them how fast I could pump my legs. I turned back around. This time I stood up as I pedaled, coasting by them evenly perched on my pedals, my long brown hair flowing behind me. I could see them out of the corner of my eye following my movements like a tennis match. If I were my older brother I would have next passed them without hanging onto the handlebars. But deciding to ride up to say hello to these strangers was more my speed of daring courage.

My 8th birthday with my best friend Robin at my side (right)

My 8th birthday with my best friend Robin at my side (right)

“What’s your name?” I asked, their obvious appreciation of my skills stripping away my shyness.

“Robin.”

“Daniel.”

“We’re twins,” Robin added.

Now I was impressed. “You don’t look like twins.”

“Twins don’t have to look alike. They just have to be born out of their mommy’s tummy at the same time,” said Daniel automatically. I obviously wasn’t the first person to question their validity.

We continued the kid equivalent to dogs sniffing butts to get to know one another asking, “How old are you? What grade are you in? Is this your house?”

“You wanna see our back yard?” one of them asked after we sized each other up. Once you have name, age, and grade no one is a stranger to a kid.

“Sure,” I shrugged dropping my bike.

It was fabulous. A swing set. A teeter totter. A dog run with two dogs. A garden and fruit trees. A coop filled with pigeons. A tiered slope with steps and ledges for jumping with a gate at the top that expanded their compact back yard into the sprawling watershed behind their house.

“I should probably go since my mom doesn’t know where I’m at,” I told Robin after test driving the teeter totter with her. “Can I come back tomorrow?” She nodded and smiled. I liked her freckles.

I remember thinking it was too bad that Robin was two grades younger than me because I really liked her back yard.

What I quickly learned over the course of a six year friendship was that age doesn’t matter when you find that person who gets you without need of explanation. That person who you can spend a whole day with and it still doesn’t seem like enough time. That person who is eager to spend time with you because you make them happy. That special someone who even when they get to know everything about you, flaws and all, still think you are their missing half.

That’s what a best friend is. Having someone out there who loves you even though they don’t have to.

Robin was my first best friend. She colored my childhood with her presence in every fun and happy memory I have of growing up. She was to me what every kid should be fortunate enough to have: a peer to face the world with, hand-in-hand, heart to heart.

I lost touch with Robin at a time when I think kids need a best friend the most—junior high. My younger sister died in a tragic accident; my family fell apart; with separate custody we moved away. There was still the telephone and writing letters, but strangely, it turned out proximity did matter. I couldn’t just run down the street anymore for validation.

Somehow my shattered heart and self-worth survived my life’s biggest transition. Over the years I wondered if the process would’ve been smoother with Robin by my side.

With the dawn of social media I tried to track down Robin. I found Daniel and their older sister. Life has been challenging for Robin. Daniel told her I was looking for her, but she hasn’t reached back.

I can’t help but think—as much as Robin meant to me, maybe I was more to her than a child could realize.

While I was busy mourning the loss of a sister and a carefree childhood, it never occurred to me that Robin was likely doing the same. My family had become her family. And in moving on with our lives, trying to find happiness again…we left her behind.

I just want to tell her I’m sorry. I’m sorry we left her. Having a best friend like Robin was worth trying to hold on to. I’ve never forgotten her. I’ve never stopped valuing her contribution to my life. And after 30 years, she is still dear to my heart as the person who gave me the confidence to like and love myself—because she made it look so easy to like and love me.

#MemoryofaBestFriend

2 comments

  1. Dad says:

    I can add another layer to Robin’s personality. I was her track coach; she a not so fast runner with the biggest heart on the team. She tried desperately to earn a coveted spot on the relay team with no success until one day a relay member told me she could not attend an upcoming meet.

    “Robin,” I said, “we need you to fill in on the relay team.” You would have thought I’d just handed her Tom Cruise and a million dollars on a platter. She was beside herself with joy.

    Meet day arrives and mid-point of the competition the runner who’d said she couldn’t attend shows up.

    All were uncertain what to do. As a teaching/learning moment, I told the relay members to discuss the situation and give me their thoughts. Not privy to the discussion, they made the choice to keep the relay intact, with Robin, despite sacrificing a likely win without their original runner now present.

    Race time approached and I saw the relay warming up and Robin replaced by the original runner.

    I found a devastated Robin and got her tearful explanation. It had been her own unselfish decision to remove herself from the relay team, allowing the usual runner to re-assume her spot.

    “Why Robin? Did anyone pressure you?” I asked.

    “No!” was her immediate sad reply. “I would just slow the team down and that wouldn’t be fair.”

    Robin didn’t get her 15 minutes of fame that day, however, at the season’s end award’s picnic she received the largest trophy I could find inscribed, Robin Rohrer, Sportswoman of the Year.

    I’ve had many great athletes and wonderful coaching moments, none remembered more fondly than Robin’s relay sacrifice for the team.

    I hope life will repay it forward to you, Robin.

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