First Friends

Me and Nancy at Concord Bridge (MA), June 1961

Me and Nancy at Concord Bridge (MA), June 1961

I barely remember my first friend, Regan, who lived next door to us in Cincinnati. There’s a picture of us as at age four on a stone wall, in identical shorts and midriff blouses, belly buttons protruding. But that’s about it. Regan moved away to a neighboring state, which, in the 1950s geography of childhood, may as well have been the moon. Besides, less than a year later, my family moved to New England.

There I met Nancy. She had a pixie haircut and freckled face wide open with friendliness. She lived two corners and a short, steep hill away from me, back in the days when free-range children were the norm. Nancy’s house backed onto the woods, where we spent hours building forts, climbing rocks, and fashioning furniture out of twigs and moss. Her mother, strikingly beautiful and always welcoming, would serve up snacks and listen to our tales of adventure.

In fourth grade, I pushed the two of us to take up violin together. I scratched my way through a few torturous lessons before quitting, but Nancy really took to it.

Despite the disparities in our musical talent, Nancy and I were inseparable. Then, in fifth grade, her family relocated to the far corner of Massachusetts. We promised to stay best friends forever, even visited once or twice. But as often happens, we lost touch.

As I began to delve deeply a couple of years ago into my long-held obsession with ruptures in women’s friendships, I thought about Nancy a lot. Ours was a drift, not a rift—a relationship disrupted by circumstances, but not the complicated messiness I would later come to know with close female friends. I grew nostalgic for our wonderful times together. So, thanks to the modern-day miracles of Google, I found her.

Nancy has the same open, friendly face (we both have better haircuts now), a different last name, a husband and beautiful freckle-faced daughter, and a house in the country with lots of animals. Plus a long string of musical accomplishments under her name. A former symphony violinist, she is now an assistant professor of music, director of her college’s symphony and chamber orchestras, and coordinator for their Strings Program and auditions. I’m glad one of us made it past the scratching stage, and glad that I have such fond memories of my first best friend.

Now Nancy and I exchange emails and holiday news. She signed up for my blog, and even signed up her still beautiful and gracious mother!

Today is Nancy’s birthday.

Happy birthday, old friend!


First friend stories? Are you still in touch? How have your earliest friendships shaped your adult ones?