How I Found My Lifelong Best Friend

When we tell the story now, late in the night, usually after a few glasses of wine, we describe the scene in perfect detail. The blue sky, the white clouds parting to reveal a ray of sunlight, the birds singing. Did music start playing? I could have sworn there was music playing.

In reality it was just a normal weekday in September in the midmorning after breakfast was cleared and the baths were done, and the toddlers were finally bored of pushing trucks around the living room making truck sounds. We each headed out for our daily walk, essential in those days because by this point we had run out of ideas to entertain the toddlers and it was still only midmorning.

We met over the summer at the local pool, two young moms sitting alone with sleeping babies in strollers. (Photo credit: Meghan Walsh)

My new friend and I were so happy to spot each other on a walk

Somewhere along the path that I took and the path that she took, we spotted each other in the distance. And while I’m sure the clouds didn’t actually part, and birds didn’t suddenly start singing, I did absolutely feel butterflies in my stomach.

I walked faster. She walked faster. We had found each other.

We had met over the summer at the local pool, two young moms sitting alone with sleeping babies in strollers, heads buried in books. We made eye contact, noticing our identical color and brand of jogging stroller, and gave a little wave and hello.

Later in the baby pool, we introduced ourselves and spent the next hour chatting. And then we each headed home in different directions.

I doubted myself the whole walk home. Should I have gotten her number? Would it have been weird to give her my number? This was unfamiliar territory. 

As a child I never worried about making friends

Even though I was a painfully shy child, I never worried about making friends. I didn’t consider the process at all. My earliest childhood friends were the children of my parents’ friends and the kids on my block. I clicked with some and became closest with a few, but I didn’t have to look very hard to try to find them.

In high school they played on my volleyball team and sat next to me in math class. In college they lived down the hall of my dorm or pledged the same sorority. Even when I got out of college, there were people at connecting cubicles and around the conference table in meetings.

I never really thought about how to make friends as an adult

I never really thought about how to find friends because there were always people around to befriend. But then one day, as I sat on the floor making engine noises as I pushed a red truck around in circles, I realized that I hadn’t talked to an adult all day.

Did I even remember how to talk to an adult? What would I even say?

While the events of that September day were nothing as dramatic as we portray in our retelling, the truth is that it was a pivotal moment for both of us. While neither of us had wanted to admit it, we were lonely.

When we spotted each other on the walk, we both hurried towards each other and stopped on the sidewalk talking for what probably was hours. And we never stopped talking.

With names and numbers stored safely in our phones, we made plans to meet up for a walk the next day. The walks became daily and went for miles. They started to include stops at the library for story time and excursions to different playgrounds.

As new moms we were so lonely

Rainy days were spent at indoor play spaces or with each other in our own playrooms. Some days we called each other in the morning to plan what we would do that day, then spent the day doing the thing we planned, and then called each other in the afternoon to talk about how much fun we had doing the thing we had done.

Did I mention we were lonely? 

Our friendship became way less about filling time between naps and more about a genuine connection that was organic and easy. While the timing of the walk might have brought us to the same block at the same time on that one September day, that meeting had been years in the making.

Days into our friendship we realized that we had both moved to our current neighborhood from Hoboken, NJ. In a city of only one square mile, how many times had we passed each other on the sidewalk before?

Weeks into our friendship we realized that we had gone to college in the same town. We were brand new friends who had the same shared experiences to reminisce over. We had spent our college nights at the same parties. We both missed the fresh cookies at our favorite bakery and the pizza at our favorite late night spot. How many times had we been in the same crowded college bar not noticing each other? 

Our friendship has lasted for 20 years. (Photo credit: Meghan Walsh)

It’s been 20 years since that first connection and our friendship has evolved

It has been 20 years, and our friendship has evolved in ways that we could not have imagined in those early days. We each had two more children, spending both of those pregnancies together, moving to slower walks with protruding bellies, double joggers and baby carriers to accommodate our growing families.

We have celebrated baptisms, communions and graduations. We turned 30, then 40, and now 50. There has been heartbreak and tragedy and times we told each other things we couldn’t tell anyone else.

Our children love each other like family. The sleepovers, shared vacations and memories together have made them each other’s first call when they need a friend.

They have grown up together. We have grown up together. 

This month I turned 50 and took stock of my relationships

I turned 50 this month and celebrated with a big party at our house. I took a minute to look around and take in the scene. I looked at the faces of friends who have filled our house with laughter over the years. The PTA co-chairs, the softball coaches, the moms I met at pick up lines, the parents we connected with on the sidelines of our kids’ soccer games. This incredible group of friends has become the community that I have always needed.

It wasn’t instant and it wasn’t always easy. It took joining clubs and tennis groups and getting out of the car at school pick up, even when it was cold and rainy. It took saying hello to people at the grocery store who I recognized from the soccer fields.

It took time. Looking across the room at the beautiful patchwork of people gathered together, I felt incredibly lucky and still a little surprised. It hadn’t seemed possible all of those years before. But it started with that one friend and that one not so chance encounter on a sunny September day. 

Our relationships will continue to evolve. We will continue to celebrate happy occasions together and we will cry with each other when things are hard. We will have quiet houses again.

Our walks will get slower eventually. We will start new chapters in our lives. We might not live in the same place or see each other as often as we used to but when we do it will feel like absolutely no time has passed. We will keep telling that same story, and yes, the details will change and it will become even more dramatic in the retelling, but we will keep telling it. And when we remember it, there will absolutely be music playing. 

More Great Reading:

Sometimes It’s Really Hard to Connect With the ‘Other’ Moms

About Meghan Walsh

Meghan Walsh lives in Cranford, NJ with her husband and three kids, ages 20, 18 and 15. She is a graduate of Villanova University with a degree in English and a graduate of Drexel University with a master degree in Higher Education. She works in admissions at the University of New Hampshire.

Read more posts by Meghan

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