the gift of girlhood friends


I looked up.

Past my yard, across the alley there was a girl with her elbows propped up on a fence, her chin resting in her hands. “Hi,” she yelled, “How old are you?”

She had rosy cheeks and dark hair divided into pigtails. We had just moved in and this was my first encounter with a neighbor, another child. And she was talking to me. I cupped my hands around my mouth, “I’m four!”

“Me too!” This girl was bold. “When’s your birthday?”

I knew my birthday and proudly answered, “October 17th.”

She grinned, “Me too! I’m Rita. Who are you?”

I was stunned by her, taken with this apple-cheeked confident girl. We shared the same birthday – no way! My age! “I’m Heidi.” Please be my friend. What if I say something stupid? Overcome, I ducked inside the house. More words failed me, and I hoped and prayed she wouldn’t disappear.

She didn’t.

Long conversations hanging off the fence, joint birthdays, sleepovers filled our days; and best friends were born.


It’s been nearly 20 years since I’ve seen her. Will I recognize her? Should I get coffee or just wait for her? I’ll wait. I check my phone. It’s 1:48. I will see her in 12 minutes. A woman just sat down. Is that her? It doesn’t look like her, but it could be her. At 1:55 I find the email that includes her phone number. I call and her voice mail message transports me to girlhood. The voice that greets me is older, but I can hear the girl I knew. I look up and that has to be Rita pushing on the glass door. It is her! We hug and cling and exclaim. “It’s you! I can’t believe it’s you! It’s so good to see you!” And then we’re laughing, shaking and talking. We can’t stop talking for two and a half hours.

Rita is as deep, smart and rosy-cheeked as I remember who still has an affinity for the color red. As we sit across from each other we interrupt our catching-up (oh, the catching up and the photos!) to point out, “You’re just like I remember. You haven’t changed a bit. Look at us! We turned out okay.”

I look at this bright, bold woman who fell from the sky to perch on a fence seemingly just for me. She didn’t know then how she would make my life better, sweeter. How she would be stamped all over my childhood. How she was a gift. And what a gift she is today.

Swept up

in Childhood. Nothing says childhood like a tire swing.

14 thoughts on “the gift of girlhood friends

  1. christy

    What a gift indeed. Old girlfriends are simply the best!
    PS – This post felt like it should be part of a book. A best-seller, no less. 🙂

    1. heidi

      You are just so kind to me, Christy. I’m lucky to know you here in this space. And soon we’ll actually get to meet…how much fun will that be?!

  2. heidi

    Intense Guy, I’ve been trying to reply to your comment and WordPress won’t let me, so I’ll try again… It was a big thank you so, so much.

  3. Alexis

    Childhood friends are the best! And how lucky you got to reconnect with one after 20 years! Amazing, amazing. 🙂

    1. heidi

      Alexis, she heard me on the radio, got in touch with me and I nearly lost my mind with excitement! It was just so much fun to see her and jump right back into it all.
      Okay, I just sent you a tweet about TVD on the cover of Entertainment Weekly…tell me if you squealed like I did. What is happening to me?!

  4. Jennifer

    What a beautiful post! Your writing is gorgeous. I think you’ve inspired me to get in touch with my best friend from elementary school. 🙂

    1. heidi

      Thank you, Jennifer!! You should do it…totally, absolutely!! She found me as I explained in the comment above…and it was just so fun.

  5. Kerstin

    Awesome. After we moved to Canada I found a childhood friend on Facebook again. I hadn’t talked to her in over 20 years and it’s been so much fun having her around, even if it’s “only” Facebook.
    My best friend lives in Colorado and we met about 20 years ago, when I went to college in Boulder, CO. We were inseparable until I moved back to Germany and now I haven’t seen her in 13 years. We stay in touch, but I can’t wait to actually see her again. When I read your post I could just picture myself and her chatting and catching up when we finally see each other again. I hope you stay in touch with your friend, we let way too much time go by without being with the people that really matter.

    1. heidi

      Hopefully you’ll get to see her soon. I wished I had found Rita earlier and not let so much time go by. And we do have plans…for dinner this month!

  6. Kate Coveny Hood

    I cherish my childhood friends. They are a HUGE part of my identity. And there isn’t one that I haven’t seen after years (like 20) and immediately picked up where we left off.

    I love that you and Rita have the same birthday!

    1. heidi

      That birthday thing was and still is so amazing. It brought us this immediate connection – like we were just meant to be friends. 🙂

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