My best friend growing up was Patricia Butler. I met her when I was three and she was four, when her family moved to my little town and began attending our tiny Episcopal mission there. Patricia was the polar opposite of me in appearance: she had big blue eyes, snow-blonde hair and was skinny as a pole. I, on the other hand, had almond-shaped dark brown eyes, dark brown hair and was a bit chubby. Other than our outward appearance, however, we were one in spirit. We both laughed at the same jokes, liked and disliked the same people and could finish each other’s sentences. We also loved to sing and spent many days of our youth harmonizing on songs that we perfected for nobody’s pleasure other than our own. Patricia was a year older than I was so she was a year ahead in school. Ironically, most of our acquaintances never knew Patricia and I were friends at all since at school we spent all of our time with our same age groups. However, almost every weekend throughout our childhood and adolescence, we were together on Sundays during and after church. This friendship continued on through college and into adulthood until Patricia was stricken with brain cancer at 32 and died several years later, though by that time, only a shadow of her former self.
I have to say that Patricia holds a singular spot in my heart. She was my childhood friend who transitioned into the woman who was there for all three births of my children. She loved my husband almost as much as I did and their shared love of art was a bond between them and a launching pad for my own artistic education. I can still visualize Patricia as if she were here in the flesh and I still know exactly what she would say in pretty much any situation I might encounter today. I also know she would be immensely proud of those three babies she helped birth and would agree that Ray has only gotten better with age.
While I miss my friend, glimpses of her flit in and out of every close friendship I’ve had throughout my life. Patricia was and remains my first and closest friend, but she taught me how to be a friend and love a friend. Those gifts are her legacy and have filled my life with a whole host of people who enrich my life every day. How lucky for me to have had such a sweet and dear first friend.