BFFA – Best Friends for Awhile
By Kim Seeley
“Mama, are you coming? Phyllis and Corkus are waiting!” I sit at the tiny table with my tea set and accessories all in place. My mother takes a seat and pretends to pour her tea. “Isn’t everything lovely, Mama? Phyllis says these cookies are her favorites.” I hand my mother an empty plastic plate.
My mother agrees, “Everything is just perfect, Kim. And how are Phyllis and Corkus today?” My mother glances over to the two empty seats at my tea table.
Oh, they are just fine, Mama. Phyllis is all better from her sore throat, and Corkus had a skinned knee, but she is all better, too.” I pour more tea into the cups for my friends and place pretend cookies on their plates.
These are my best friends during the early years of my childhood, Phyllis and Corkus, two imaginary playmates. My mother was a young mom, married at 17 and a mother at 18, but she was wise beyond her years. She gamely played along with my imaginary friends and involved them in conversations and playtime. They went along with me to Grandma’s house and played outside with me under the large oak trees.
Gradually, Phyllis and Corkus came to play less often. Mama had another baby girl when I was three, and still another when I was four and a half. Once my sisters became more interesting, I spent more time with them, and Phyllis and Corkus were abandoned along the way. But they were my first friends, my best friends for awhile.
My mother’s good friend Peggy, who lived just down the street, also had three girls who were just a little younger than I was. They were always called Candy, Cookie and Taffy, and no, I am not making that up. Their birth names were Donna, Lynette, and Peggy, but I never heard them called that. They went to my school, they attended my church, and they lived down the street from us. Our mothers were close, and it was only natural that they became good friends of ours. For awhile, they were my best friends.
My next best friend was Margo, who moved in next door to me when I was about ten. Margo was a year older and a grade ahead of me in school. She and her family had just transferred from Alaska, and her dad worked for the FBI. Her travels and her dad’s job added a sense of mystery to Margo, and I was captivated. We spent a lot of time together looking at teen magazines in her room. I was allowed to ride the bus with her (and no adults) to Woolworth’s and a movie. I felt so grown! I had great plans for Margo and me, but my hopes were short-lived. Her dad was being transferred again, and in a few months, she and her family were gone. She, too, had been my best friend for awhile.
Through junior high and high school, one of my closest friends was Debbie. Debbie was a vivacious redhead, witty and smart, with one older brother in the service and elderly parents. I loved visiting at her house because we had all the privacy in the world. We could read her Mad Magazine collection and laugh our heads off with no one to bother us. I do believe she loved coming to my house too, for entirely different reasons, to experience a house full of siblings, laughter and noise. We shared classes, sleepovers and vacations together. Our friendship seemed bound to endure, as we enrolled in the same university and kept in touch throughout the four years.
Shortly after graduation, however, Debbie started experiencing some symptoms and underwent testing. She was diagnosed with cancer. She was optimistic and upbeat when we had our lunch dates, despite the scarves and wigs that hid the evidence of her struggle. We lived about an hour away from each other, but we talked and visited often. I fell in love and married, and Debbie came to my wedding. A few months into married life, I invited her to our little duplex for lunch, and she spent the afternoon with my new husband and me. We had such a delightful visit, filled with news about high school and college friends.
A few months after Debbie visited me, my mother received a phone call from Candy’s mom. Debbie was in a hospital, and the prognosis was grim. My mother and I drove to the hospital the next day. I was shocked at my friend’s appearance, but I tried not to let it show. I hugged her and told her I loved her. In a few days, she was gone. Her funeral was the most difficult I had experienced at that time in my life, and I felt her loss keenly as they wheeled her casket past me down the aisle. She too, had been my best friend for awhile, but I would mourn her loss for a lifetime.
I feel a touch of envy for people who claim to have a best friend forever, people who have been confidants and companions their entire lives; however, God seems to know when I need a friend, and he has amply provided through the years. I have been blessed with friends from church, co-worker friends, parents of my children’s classmates; each phase of my life seems to have brought new friendships my way.
In the past two years, I have reconnected through social media with some of my high school classmates, people who can share tales and jokes about Debbie and the old neighborhood. We go to the beach together and meet for lunch, and they have brought a sense of coming full circle and connecting my past and present. Unlike Phyllis and Corkus, they are made of flesh and bone, but they fill a gap in my life just as my tea partner buddies of my childhood once did. I am thankful for all of the folks who have brightened this journey called life, and I am richer indeed for knowing each of my best friends for awhile.
About this writer
- Kim Seeley, a former librarian and English teacher, lives with her husband, Wayne, in Wakefield, Virginia. She is a frequent contributor to Sasee and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Her most recent story, “Amanda’s Jonquils,” can be found in Chicken Soup: Messages from Heaven. She loves to read, play the piano, travel and spend time with her grandson, Evan.