My best sister-friend from Montana and I go back a long time–to a time when we were too young to drive, and when we worked together at a drug store lunch counter serving up crab cakes and ice cream to watermen and local politicians in a town that hadn’t yet hit the tourism jackpot on the eastern shore of Maryland. We have weathered families that often times fail us, but with whom we seem to always give it another try. Together, we navigated the uncharted waters of teenage angst and insanity, living pretty much on our own, left to our own unsupervised devices–all by age 17.
The summer we were both 18, our eastern shore town was very much on the map. I was the bartender and she was the cocktail server in the same new must-be-seen-at restaurant, and we were totally living on our own. We also knew our jobs were always on the verge, as every night we watched our restaurant owner pocket cash out of the register, while our paychecks bounced most every week.
Her siblings seemed mostly foreign to her: “I am sure I was the baby mistakenly brought home with the wrong parents.” Mine were a hodgepodge of steps and halves clamoring for acceptance. I was the willing outsider who watched them battle it out from the sidelines. Is it any wonder that my best sister-friend seems, indeed, to be the real sister from whom I surely was separated at birth?
When we were 19, I moved back to DC to continue with college, thinking I had met the man of my dreams. She moved to Montana to be with her sweetheart who was going to college there. Within months, her sweetheart had ditched her, it was winter, and she was stuck in a western state very different from the swampy eastern shore of Maryland. I was soon alone, too, on my own, working full time as a writer as I worked the independent study system as best I could to manage a B.A. in Literature.
By the time we were 21, she was still in Montana, and had really truly met the man of her dreams, whom she said yes to. The man of my dreams was still a few months away, unbeknownst to me, and I was the single girl who braved a Montana December to stand up for her at her wedding as her best girl.
Not long after, with a baby very obviously on the way, she stood up for me at my wedding to be my best girl. We saw each other only once a year, if we were lucky, but we stayed connected by phone and letter, and by being each of our children’s Godmothers. We were best sister-friends from afar.
We have never parted, despite the miles that make weekend visits impossible. Her kids are grown now, two of the most beautiful girls on this planet. Mine are almost grown, too, and they adore my best sister-friend, as hers adore me. We are all family, and sometimes my best sister-friend and I feel like maybe we are the only two in this whole world who totally and completely understand each other. We have other terrific friends, friends we love. But to each other, we are each other’s only sister-friend.
My best sister-friend flew me to Baltimore the Sunday evening after my birthday to meet her before she flew back home to Montana. Her mother is very ill on the eastern shore of Maryland. Her aunt is under hospice care in the same place. She had been there for five days to say sad goodbyes, and she wanted to be with her best sister-friend at the end of those five days, to hug and cry and laugh, and to just be together again.
We stayed up very late Sunday night, talking and eating fries and ice cream in our airport hotel. We drove a rental car into town today, gobbling up shrimp and crab for lunch, as we savored the inner harbor of a city we don’t really know, but that had brought us together through cheap airfares.
Our lunch, for those who love seafood, in photos.
Steamed shrimp appetizer with the perfect amount of kick to them:
Lunch consisting of my best sister-friend’s crab cake and my lump crab chopped salad:
Two girls, who are two friends, who are two sisters:
The visit was a perfect gift to us both as we face hopeful futures and uncertain times with the loved ones we still love above all. It was, truly, the perfect end to one of the most wonderful birthday weekend celebrations I can remember. Actually, I am sure it has been the best birthday, ever.