My best friend and I don’t exchange birthday gifts or cards, and I don’t know why, because in the areas of gift-giving and card-selection, we are masters. Because of traffic on Interstate 10, we conduct our relationship almost entirely by phone. I like to think this is a good strategy in case either of us decides to move to Europe.  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 a thank you letter on her special day:

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Dear Amanda,

You really are gonna be 40 . . . someday. It seems like a heartbeat ago that Ken was asking if you were ever going to be 30. How he loved you, and I know of all people 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 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. I know he wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to find him. There was no one better to break the news to me or to take care of the aftermath which included baking for my mourning family those mini chicken pot pies in individual ramekins, 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.

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. For carrying her 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, thank you. For trusting her to babysit your little girls, for being her first professional reference, for “helping” her pass online 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 – thank you.

For reminding me that it could always be worse – always – and that the heart wants what the heart wants, thank you. For being judgmental but never judging me, thank you.For waiting and waiting in hospitals and at the hairdressers, thank you. For putting up with my airport behavior and pretending you understand why someone from Northern Ireland  would rant like that. For always letting me have the aisle seat. For the thousands of miles you have traveled across America with me and for driving the rental car while I sing and remain oblivious to signs on the road, thank you.  For 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 Tom Petty and Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle. For our shared dislike of Dave Matthews and for the unspoken reason why we both hate Coldplay. For adopting a Greyhound and convincing me that I should as well. For the devil of a margarita – two of them – in Santa Fe. #thedevilinside #loveactually

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 close to expand-a-fan, and for the hashtags, for‪ #‎sleepingwiththeenemy‬  following one of those nights when your youngest commandeered the bed, for ‪#‎saysalltherightthings‬ and for never tiring of our 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 and Santa Fe and – more than once – off the deep end. For Beale Street and finding rhythm and blues at the Rum Boogie Cafe. For walking in Memphis in the pouring rain and convincing the bar owner to stay open and make fried green tomatoes for us while we dried out. 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 splitting the bill and feeling sorry for whoever has to take my order, but then remembering that I will probably find out that they have a degree in education. 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.

For pool and poker. We’re only “one away.” For scrapbooks and shopping lists. For buying the same outfits even though 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 and for losing your sense of direction on 7th Street – every time. 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. 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 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 – what if I need bail?

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