We all have one. That one person who gets you. The one who has seen it all with you. The one that you've experienced ups and downs with and came out just fine together on the other side.
Steph and I met in high school... the first week of freshman year, in fact. She dropped a harmless note over my shoulder in first period algebra 2, and the rest really was history.
We shared many a note during our four years of high school, some of which I deemed worthy of saving and are stored in a little box in my closet. It's fun to reread them every once in a blue moon.
High school was full of crushes, first dates and first kisses... as well as first heartbreaks.
We laughed a lot. We cried some (because who are we kidding? Even best friends have a little conflict from time to time). We played cards during study breaks and always killed the competition, especially in kemps. We had sleepovers. We went to football games. We sang in the hallways. We played Marco Polo in the hallways.
Steph was the best thing that happened to me in high school. Even though we attended different colleges, we managed to see each other a few times a year and keep the friendship strong through email and phone calls.
When she moved away to Boston for law school, I made sure to fly up there once a year.
Somewhere in there I watched her meet a boy, fall in love, get engaged... and then I stood nearby as a bridesmaid when they got married. Fortunately, the boy understands my role in their lives. I think he's pretty great, too.
I love that she moved to Chicago because I can easily get there from Nashville thanks to Southwest Airlines. I was thrilled to share my Chicago marathon experience with her.
We've been through a lot since that day in algebra 2 when we were 14 and the world outside of school was such a mystery.
I have a lot of really good friends. I'm definitely very blessed and have some great relationships with a lot of people... but Steph will always be the one I claim as a best friend. She understands me. She gives great advice when I need it. She's a great sounding board. She gets excited with me when I'm excited, and she's sad with me when I'm sad. And I try to be as good of a friend to her as she is to me.
Steph's family still lives in Knoxville, so when I found out she and the hubs were coming in for Christmas I quickly invited myself - wait, I mean politely asked myself - over so that we could spend some time together.
I woke up on Saturday morning and drove the 3 hours to get to her. We had lunch and caught up in person. Sure, we love exchanging emails to stay in touch, but nothing beats seeing each other. We always pick up exactly where we left off, and it feels as though no time has passed since we last saw each other.
I also got to go back to her folks' place and spend some time with the family. It's always nice to see them, and in a lot of ways they feel like family to me.
After joining them for dinner, I made the 3-hour trek back home.
It's hard to explain true friendship sometimes. I know I've tried a few times to explain it to my sister... she's had some experiences with girls who were less than a true friend to her.
I think a good way of saying it is this: when I went to leave and Steph and I were hugging goodbye, she thanked me again for coming and said something along the lines of how much she appreciated me spending 6 hours in the car with her that day. I told her she's worth it and that it was nothing.
And I meant it. There are plenty of people that I may care a great deal about but that I wouldn't eagerly hop in the car for 6 hours to see. Steph's not one of them. She's one that I don't even blink twice when I offer to drive over to spend a few hours with her and her family.
I have no doubt that Steph is always going to be a part of my life, even if we never live in the same city again. We were talking at lunch about a couple of the things we remember being upset over or having hurt feelings about and how it of course seems silly now. I think that's also when you know you have a true friend... when you're able to get through anything and come out stronger because of it.
I think I have a tendency to think about what I'm thankful for even more at Christmas, and I think it's because there are so many people and things that I consider to be such a gift. Steph really is a gift in my life, and I am always hopeful that everyone else out there has been as lucky as I have been and has found a true friend.