It’s one thing to have many close (some very close) friends, which I am lucky enough to have but, there is almost nothing sweeter, more fulfilling or more fun (for lack of a better word) than to have one true best friend. I have found that it is one of life’s greatest blessings.

I moved to Commack from Locust Valley just two months shy of my third birthday. I still remember, believe it or not, riding my big wheel as fast as I could up and down my new block, Doe Lane, hoping someone would see me and come out to play. Faster than you can say “big wheel”, there were a gang of kids out – curious to who the new addition to the block was.

It was a great block. Just about every house had two or more kids. The closest to my age, however, were Vinny, Kenny, Adam and, of course, my soon to be best friend, Jill.

Now, I actually became closest with Vinny first, and we maintained that closeness until he died tragically in the early nineties. He was like a brother to me, though. Jill and I, in fact, had some issues at first. One of them even culminated in us rolling around on the grass, kicking and pulling each other’s hair. But, you know what, that was absolutely fine. It was good for us. Our childlike, primitive way to solve a problem.

Slowly but surely, though, we became closer and closer. She was a year ahead of me in school but, soon, besides the time we spent in the classroom, we became pretty much “attached at the hip”.

Jill was the Ying to my Yang. The salt to my pepper. The Shirley to my Laverne. You see, in many ways we couldn’t be any more different. I was outgoing where she was reserved and a little shy. I was reckless (ok – wild) where she was rational. I was boy crazy where she was a little bit of a late bloomer. I constantly tested boundaries and she constantly kept me in line and protected me. I was always up to do anything and needed almost constant companionship where she cherished her alone time. I was an overachiever in just about everything while she was happy to just do her best (which is a quality, as I get older and older, I wish I had also had then). Where I was emotional and full of drama, Jill was even keeled and able to hold her emotions in check. We were anything but carbon copies of each other and yet, we didn’t see them as differences. We always felt as though we simply complimented each other. And we did. There were qualities that Jill had that benefited me more than I can say and there were qualities that I had that she has told me made life a little more exciting.

We have made so many memories that it is, in all seriousness, impossible to list them all. Since we lived across the street from each other, there was literally, except for the occasional illness or vacation, not a day that would pass that I don’t remember spending with Jill. We had our routines; watching General  Hospital every day with potato chips and iced tea, walking to Pathmark to buy our parents cigarettes at the stationery store (can you imagine??), stopping into the deli to flirt with the cute guys behind the counter, walking to the Flea Market to buy our favorite lip stick and to have a nice and gooey piece of pizza downstairs, roller skating every weekend with combs in the back pockets of our Jordache Jeans and feathers in our hair. We were miniature Dorothy Hamills on wheels because, when we weren’t at the rink, we were practicing our moves in my partially cemented back yard. We put on plays, made up dance routines (Another One Bites the Dust was a particular favorite of mine), got the ice cream man, played SPUD and Kick the Can with the other neighborhood kids and, of course, sat on the curb with our boom box under the street light until it was time to go in for the night.

We tanned until we were the color of mahogany. We still, unfortunately, have this bad habit but, at least now we wear sunscreen. No sunscreen for us then, though. It was baby oil all the way. When it got hot, we’d just jump into the pool. Luckily, we both had one, although Jill’s was a built in with a slide!

As we got older, we idolized her big sister, Karen. She taught us how to put our make up on, took us with her to Robert  Moses in her silver sports car and brought “older guys” around that we would literally drool over (or at least, being boy crazy, I did).

There was rarely a weekend that one of us didn’t sleep at the others house. My parents were her second parents and hers mine. We would listen to music, watch movies (anything scary was the best) and never missed Saturday Night Live. Jill is the one I saw my first “grown up” movies with; Fame, Flashdance, Raw and Purple Rain come to mind.

The night before the other’s birthday, one of us would spend hours making the other the big cardboard initials, wrapped in tin foil, with bows and a piece of candy for each year the other had been living. We never had to worry the night before about whether someone would make us one – it was a given – done.

We worked at McDonalds together, at the Stationary store together and at Sears together. Like I said earlier, “attached at the hip”.

There was no “threes a crowd” for us. If one of us had a boyfriend or plans with another friend, we would always include the other. We were Jill and Nicole and no one came in between us.

We shared secrets and dreams. She was going to marry Adam Ant and I was going to marry John Travolta. We had a lot of good times with lots of different boys and to this day, we often refer to different periods of our lives by which group of boys we were hanging out with at the time; first it was Randy, Shevy, Gerry, Todd and Jay, then the McDonalds crew, then the deli boys and finally, the days of Chuckie, Woody, Mike D., Mike V and Eric. Lol. You get the idea.

Sure, we got annoyed at each other sometimes but, I can honestly say that in our 43 years of friendship we only had two real fights. One was the scrap on the lawn I mentioned before and the other was when we were about 12. I though Jill was cheating at some stupid game we were playing (she wasn’t). I can’t remember if it was Gin Rummy or Life but, in any case, we had an argument. I stormed off to Old Farms and cried on the swings for about a half an hour. It was as if I had lost my arm. By the time I got back, we made up and that was the end of that.

We are so close that we are almost like twins in that we know when the other is hurting. We can also finish each other’s sentences and, sometimes, we can just look at each other without saying a word and know what the other one is thinking. Usually, this is some kind of funny memory that brings us to obnoxious hysterics.

Things, of course, have happened in both of our lives that were very deep and very painful. I can honestly say that I never could have gotten through those times without Jill nor she without me. When you are as close as are, you just instinctively know what to say, or what not to say. We are each other’s anchor, each other’s beacon in the night. Being with each other feels like home.

When my mother passed away, I was across the country. Jill and her mom went to the hospital to be with my dad and sisters in my place. It wasn’t awkward or uncomfortable for any of them – it just felt right. When I did get home, she didn’t leave my side, taking care of me, making phone calls I couldn’t make and showering me with hugs and kisses. She did that because she loves me so very much. We cried together, remembered together and took comfort in just being together.  Not too long before then, she had lost her beloved mother in law. I did everything I could to make her feel that she was not alone – and that she never would be. I remember holding her hand throughout the entire service at the wake. I remember looking at my devastated love and wishing there was something, anything, I could do to take that pain away for her. I couldn’t so I just did what came naturally – I just attached myself to her hip, letting her know that she was not, and would never be alone as long as I still had a breath in me.

I am so proud of my best friend. She went back to school after her beautiful daughter was born (whose middle name is, I’m proud to say, Nicole) and became an RN. After getting a great job at a wonderful hospital, she went back to school again to become a Nurse Practitioner. This was while having a child at home to take care of and working full-time. I cheered her on all the way. I didn’t even give her shit when she pulled out her study materials on the beach in Aruba, where we were enjoying a best friends vacation.

What a motivated, tough, beautiful woman has become. She finished her studies, aced her exams and is now a certified Nurse Practitioner.

The description of Jill and I from the beginning of this piece doesn’t totally apply anymore. We have both changed. Jill is no longer shy and reserved. She has come into herself beautifully, despite all of the hardships, disappointments and loss she has endured.  She is kind but, firm. She doesn’t take shit from anyone. She is more beautiful now than she has ever been and is self-confident, smart, sassy and comfortable in her own skin. She has a loving (and very handsome) husband, a daughter so bright and beautiful that the room lights up when she walks in, a beautiful home, a kick ass job and, most importantly, a pretty wonderful life.

So, Jill, here’s to you, my love. I have loved you for as long as I remember and I will love you always. I promise to always be here for you and for your beautiful daughter and I promise to fulfill all other pacts we have made. I cannot wait to experience all of the wonderful things that life has in store for us. And, I will be right there, holding your hand, for all the tough times ahead. You are a true inspiration.

Thank you for always having my back, for always holding back my hair and for the million laughs we have shared. Thank you for not getting fed up with my “alpha” personality and for always encouraging me to be who I am. Most of all, thank you for loving me – warts and all.

I know I’ve told you this so many times but, I think the song “Wind Beneath My Wings” sums up our relationship perfectly. I know that you have always been the wind for me but,  my hope is that as we have gotten older, and changed, I was able to be that wind for you, as well.

I love you, girl.

“It must have been cold there in my shadow, to never have sunlight on your face

You were content to let me shine, that’s your way

You always walked a step behind

So I was the one with all the glory, while you were the one with all the strength

A beautiful face without a name, for so lone

A beautiful smile to hide the pain

Did you ever know that you’re my hero?

You’re everything I wish I could be

I could fly higher than an eagle

Because you were the wind beneath my wings

It might have appeared to go unnoticed

But, I’ve got it all here in my heart

I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it

I would be nothing without you

Thank you, thank you, thank God for you

The Wind Beneath My Wings……”

~Bette Midler