My best friend and I don’t exchange birthday gifts or cards. This reality confounds me because in the areas of gift-giving and card-selection, we are masters. In large part, the traffic on Interstate 10 has caused us to conduct our relationship almost entirely by phone. This a satisfactory strategy just in case either of us decides to move to Europe, and it has prepared us to participate in virtual meetings, webinars, and Skype calls as though we really care.  I take her for granted, and I don’t thank her enough for being the friend that she is, so in lieu of a card or a gift, I’m sending out this thank you on her special day:

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Dear Amanda,

You really are gonna be 40 . . . someday. It seems like a heartbeat ago that my Ken was asking if you were ever going to be 30. How he loved you! I know of all people on the planet, he would be the most grateful for your friendship to me. So for wading through all the bullshit and relishing in all the joy since we first bonded on a flight to New York in 2003, thank you. For cooking all those healthy meals for him after the nice heart specialist told him he had a massive aneurysm and for going to the house and finding him because I knew, I just knew – even though I was on the other side of the world – that he was dead, thank you. He wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to find him. He knew there was no one better to break the news to me or to take care of the aftermath that somehow included baking for my mourning family those mini chicken pot pies in individual ramekins and thereby rendering all my other friends clueless about what to bring that would be most comforting. He knew that only you would keep me from falling apart. He wouldn’t have had it any other way. He was right. Of course he was right.

For shielding Sophie from so much bad news, like the time I left her with you so I could go listen to the nice Cancer Navigator tell me that, yes, I absolutely had breast cancer but it wasn’t a death sentence. Hooray! For carrying my darling girl on your swimmer’s shoulders when she was too tired to wait in line to see Santa; for the Dr. Seuss cake you baked for her high school graduation party, thank you. For trusting her to babysit your little girls and for being her first professional reference, thank you. And, for “helping” her pass online high school Chemistry even though we both know she will never need it (except to answer a first-round question on Jeopardy – maybe) and for making her feel like she matters – thanks.

For reminding me that it could always be worse – it could always be worse – and that the heart wants what the heart wants, thank you. For being judgmental but never judging me, thank you. For waiting in waiting rooms and at the beauty salon, thank you. For putting up with my airport behavior and pretending you understand why someone from Northern Ireland would rant like that when going through airport security. For always letting me have the aisle seat because you somehow believe that I deserve it. For the thousands of miles you have traveled across America with me and for driving the rental car even though everybody knows you have no sense of direction thank you. And for driving down strange highways while I sing Tom Petty songs, completely oblivious to helpful signs, thank you.  For finally watching my favorite movies so you’ll get it when I quote huge chunks of dialogue . . .

“I’m not going to be ignored, Dan.”

For the concerts – for Ryan Adams and James Blunt and Tom Petty and Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen and the Hold Steady and Steve Earle, especially that night at tehe MIM when Shawn Colvin got really annoyed with me for monopolizing Mr. Earl (“You’re from Belfast? Really? Did you go to Queens? Were you a literature student? I fucking LOVE Seamus Heaney!! Was he your teacher?”) For our shared disdain for The Dave Matthews Band and the unspoken reason why we both hate Coldplay; for adopting a Greyhound named Lola and convincing me that I should as well and for going through the agony when we had to surrender those marvelous dogs; and, for “the devil of a margarita” – two of them no less – in Santa Fe. #thedevilinside #loveactually #wishyouwerehere

For the lesson plan templates and your ‘forceful God complex’ and your ability to sniff out a complete fraud, thank you. For the million dollar ideas, none of which will come remotely close to Expand-a-Fan, and for the hashtags that should have been trending for days, like ‪ #‎sleepingwiththeenemy‬  following one of those nights when your youngest commandeered the bed, for ‪#‎saysalltherightthings‬ after your Todd told you to let go of the dream after you held up that size 2 dress and wondered aloud if it might still fit, and for never tiring of our but-seriously-who-would-play-you-in-the-movie-of-your-life game, even though it always ends up the same way. I will forever be Meryl Streep in “Falling in Love” and you will be Elizabeth Shue . . .  or Jennifer Grey.

For the road trips to San Francisco, San Diego, and Santa Fe and – more than once – off the deep end. For Beale Street and finding rhythm and blues at the Rum Boogie Cafe more than once.  For walking in Memphis in the pouring rain and convincing the bartender to stay open and make fried green tomatoes for us while we dried out into the wee small hours of the morning.  For sobering up in ways we will never forget at the Lorraine Motel. For Graceland – down in the jungle room.

For splitting appetizers – before you discovered you have either Celiacs or the alternative diagnosis proposed by your gastroenterologist, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) –  and for splitting the bill and feeling sorry for whoever has to take my order, but then remembering that I will probably discover that they have a degree in Education and, hey presto, you’ll have a new colleague. For signing my name when I forget my glasses and figuring out the tip.  For asking me to come up with a creative justification for the expense when Todd asks how your hair could possibly cost that much to cut and color. The struggle is real. #thestruggleisreal

For pool and poker and pai gow in Vegas. We will forever be only “one away.” For scrapbooks and shopping lists. For buying the same outfits even though you are a “petite” – seriously, you are a petite. For the next best app. For sniglets and code words when we need an exit strategy – ‪#‎gottago‬ For driving on the wrong side of the road downtown Phoenix and for losing your sense of direction on 7th Street – every ime. Every. Single. Time. For considering what not to wear before anything else and for always bringing at least one extra lipstick that will work for me. For ‘anticipating my needs’ and not ever minding that I won’t take no for an answer. I just won’t. For tuning me out while you chop vegetables and I try to find my train of thought.  For the smallest handbag in America to the largest. For never leaving a voice-mail because you know I won’t listen to it, and for never checking the ones I leave for you, because you know I’ll ramble and forget why I called, thank you. Although that last one worries me, because what if I need bail?

For naming your cold sores like they are hurricanes (who does that?) and developing a poker face for really bad meetings. For taking Scott’s side because you know what I’m like, just as I have always taken Todd’s side (for the same reason) thank you.

For the hours of good advice you know I’ll ignore until later when I’ll tell you, just like Carrie Fisher in “When Harry Met Sally,” “You’re right, you’re right. I know you’re right.

For showing up, and for being my best friend, thank you.

Happy Birthday. xo

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