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  • Today is my best friend Lisa’s birthday. Like me, she’s now 55 years old. We met 49 years ago on a summery beach in Massachusetts.

    I’ve been blessed all of my life with friends who have shown me beauty, made me laugh, sheltered me in times of trouble, forgiven me, betrayed me, and given me figurative dope slaps when I was being . . . well, dopey. Once when we were teenagers, and I was whining about some heartbreak that I couldn’t possibly survive, Lisa said “You live through everything except death.” I’m still amazed she could be so wise when we were so young.

    Making friends at any age is tricky. We tell stories about how we became who we are. We hold our breath in anticipation of acceptance or of loss.

    With old friends, though, we exhale, even sigh, letting our anticipations evaporate. With old friends, we don’t have to explain who or how many we are. When I spend time with Lisa, I am all the girls and women I’ve ever been.

    But once we were new friends. We met on a summery beach. Lisa sat on a blanket with her mom, her hair in braids. My little sister and I walked over to her. We were new to the area, and I needed a friend.

    “Hi,” I said. “My name’s Michele. What’s yours?”

    “Want some Hawaiian Punch?” my sister asked. When Lisa said yes, my sister, who was a wiry four year old, punched her in the face.

    I gasped.

    It’s a story we tell, over and over again, about how we became who we are.
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