…one would say, the other would reply “yes, we are,” and then they’d give each other’s cheek a gentle pinch.
Mom would read Toni the funnies, but as Toni lay back in her hospital bed with her eyes closed, she would ask Mom to act them out instead, and she did, because that’s what best friends do.
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My mother has been a laudable female role model for me — and many of my friends — my whole life. An executive consultant for an international company (on the road seemingly more often than not), a great and compassionate mother, an attentive wife, and inspirational golf coach, Mom didn’t have much time for girlfriends from 1981 (the arrival of yours truly) until she retired in 2004; her priorities were clear and never compromised.
This was apparent, palpable even, to me at an early age. I had buddies, but it didn’t seem like my Mom did. Sure, she befriended my friends’ moms, but she never had “girltime” that I can recall. No giggling with the ladies over wine and carbs, just giggling with my brother, dad and me. So I learned by watching this amazing woman an indefatigable work ethic and the paramount importance of family and devotion, but I now wonder if it was from her watching me that she learned what a difference girlfriends make in our adult lives.
As children, our girlfriends stand up for us on the playground, learn our secrets (and occasionally spill the beans), tell the boys we think they’re cute, whisper mean things about the popular girls (ha, we’re prettier than them now, my lovelies!), and let us leave the house in the most horrendous yet popular outfits.
And then we grow taller, our breasts arrive and the boys notice, and our relationships with our girlfriends start to revolve around the frogs we kiss, the Mr.-Right-Nows, the way the guys make our hearts soar prior to ungraciously breaking them. Along the way, we triumphantly break a few hearts, too, and we laugh and cry about that as well.
Soon the chatter turns to careers and families of our own, following in our mother’s footsteps or not, and if we’re lucky, our girlfriends — our “besties”— become our bosom buddies. These women know us on a molecular level. They are our champions and confidantes, our shoulders to cry on, our hands to hold, and our swift kicks to the ass. They don’t let us squirm out of doing the right thing; they are our mirrors who force us to look deep inside when we’d rather not. We still giggle over crushes or cast judgment on the mean girls, we still go shopping and buy ridiculous outfits, we still dream about our dream men, but the richness of our intertwined spirits bolsters us more than we ever could have imagined when we were young. We read stories of knights in shining armor who promised to gallantly save us, but it’s my girlfriends who save me, every single time.
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Besties push us when we need to be pushed, and let us stop when it’s time to stop.
And so on Monday, July 27, Toni stopped for good; Mom told her it was okay, but Mom will miss her forever.