A tribute to an old friend

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Smartmom wonders which of the Oh So Feisty One’s friends she will still be friends with when she grows up. It’s fun to think about, but hard to know for sure. Friendships are complicated and unpredictable. While some are long lasting, others just seem to fade away.

Smartmom met her oldest friend in the world, Best and Oldest (B&O), when they were both fifth graders at a small, private school in Manhattan. Who would have guessed that they’d still be friends nearly 40 years later?

They met on the first day of school. B&O was a greenhorn who’d just moved from Berkeley. She came to school barefoot. Or at least that’s how Smartmom remembers it. B&O had attended a “free school” in Berkeley and told Smartmom about the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations on campus and seeing Country Joe and the Fish at the Fillmore West.

Smartmom could tell that she was the coolest person on Earth and she instantly wanted her to be her BFF.

That first day, Smartmom looked after her new friend. She showed her the way to the lunchroom and took her to the water fountain with the freezing cold water.

But everything changed the next day. B&O sat next to Miss Popularity. Sadly, she could tell that B&O was gravitating toward the groovy girls. Suffice it to say, in elementary school, Smartmom wasn’t the social butterfly she is today.

Lucky for Smartmom, B&O grew tired of Miss Popularity and her crowd after a few months. Smartmom can vividly remember the day B&O asked to sit next to her on a school bus on the way to a tour of the Sabrett hot dog factory in Englewood, New Jersey.

They’ve been best friends ever since.

Just the other day, Smartmom ran into B&O.

“You’re as blind as me,” B&O said after it took a minute or two for Smartmom to notice her.

“I’m not wearing my glasses,” Smartmom told her friend who was coming from a 90-minute lap swim at Eastern Athletic. They stood in front of the big pink house on Garfield Place for close to an hour doing what they’ve been doing for 40 years: Talking.

Neither of them has changed a bit. That’s probably why their friendship has been remarkably resilient. While it hasn’t been without its ups and downs, the friendship is continually fueled by common interests, neuroses and more than a little love and respect.

Who can forget their secret club, the S.U.A.N. (Stay Up All Night) club? At sleepovers, they’d desperately try to stay up all night. Sometimes they’d play Do or Dare. They’d even take turns sleeping. One time, they decided to go out for a picnic in Riverside Park at 6 am.

Who can blame Groovy Grandpa for blowing his top when he spotted them walking along Riverside Drive at sunrise?

“Get the hell over here,” he shouted from the ninth-floor window.

Then there was New Year’s Eve 1969 when Smartmom’s parents let them each have a sip (or two) of champagne while they waited for the 1970s to begin. They were only 11.

Smartmom and B&O went to the same junior and high school, where they shared friends and boyfriends and a lot of good and not so good times.

After college, Smartmom got her first job at a documentary film company because of B&O. Later, Smartmom and B&O got a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and made a documentary film together.

Naturally, they attended each other’s weddings. No, they weren’t each other’s bridesmaids because neither of them believes in that sort of thing (and they both have sisters), but B&O did have a hand in who sat where at the party.

B&O gave birth to her daughter just five weeks after Teen Spirit was born. Together they fretted over breastfeeding, pre-school, going back to work, music lessons, high school applications and PSATs.

Their families get together for delicious dinners and too many bottles of good red wine. But it’s the phone calls, the coffees, the lunches and the sidewalk conversations that keep the friendship as fresh as the day they met.

Sure, they’ve made different choices in life and taken different paths. And they agree to disagree about lots of things: B&O lost respect for Smartmom because she loved “Thirtysomething,” “Twin Peaks and “The Corrections” by Jonathan Franzen.

But they both have a thing for philosopher Hannah Arendt, the music of Kurt Weil, and “American Pastoral” by Philip Roth.

There are jealousies of course. Smartmom wishes she were as skinny as B&O, as articulate, and even half as smart. A brownstone like hers would be nice, along with a nice, big garden. B&O envies Smartmom her memory and her total recall of every last detail of the childhood they shared.

Smartmom wonders, which of OSFO’s friends will be the long-lasting ones. Who will she call when she’s having a lonely weekend at college or breaking up with a boyfriend? Who will write her every day when she’s broken both legs and can’t leave Port Angeles, Washington for two months?

Who will wash her hair when she’s stuck in the hospital for a month with pre-term labor and who will she talk to about her career, her marriage, her children and whatever else needs to be urgently discussed?

Over wine. Preferably.

Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”
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