Value of a BFF? Priceless

My best friend is not a techie.

But I recently texted her when my BlackBerry was acting weird. She called her brother, who is a techie, hunted through her BlackBerry menus and searched the Web before we finally found the solution.

My best friend doesn’t have surplus money.

But when I was budgeting every dollar during the hardest financial time of my life, she handed me a check – just a temporary loan, she insisted – so I could attend a good friend’s wedding.

She’s not an obstetrician. Not even a nurse.

Yet she stayed by my side through the 36-hour delivery of my son, Matan, leaving only to walk to Coffee Bean at 5 a.m. to bring my husband and the rest of my family coffee and bagels, supporting my head as I pushed and pushed … and pushed.

Debbie has never had a baby. Although in my mind, she owns 30 percent of mine.

She spent weeks researching strollers and car seats. She rolled hundreds of diapers into centerpieces for Matan’s brit. She has taken more pictures of my baby than I have. Way more. She’s been to two doctor’s appointments with me (I’m sure my pediatrician mistakenly thinks Matan has two mommies). And recently, when attempting to Ferberize my son – the infamous sleep-training method that requires letting the baby cry to exhaustion – left me in tears, I fled the apartment in pajamas and flip-flops and called Debbie for advice. (Don’t call child services —  my husband was still at home.)

Debbie and I have been best friends since fifth grade at Rosewood Avenue Elementary School, through our period of dorky purple-rimmed eyeglasses, the Seth and Cedric saga, hundreds of Skittles candies, summers at Camp Chai, hand writing essays for AP European History before either of us owned computers, USC football games, dozens of boyfriends and thousands of other memories that flash like colored bits on a gigantic mosaic. 

A soul sister (or brother) is as rare and precious as a soul mate. So while February has become the domain of lovers, this issue of TRIBE is dedicated to the intimate bond between friends, honoring the profound role they, too, play in our lives.

Without vows or legal contracts, true friends stand by us in health and in illness, as we read in Leslie Berliant’s poignant personal tale of helping a cancer-stricken friend die gracefully (Page 14). Also in these pages, friendship expert Irene S. Levine, who regularly writes about the intricacies and complexities of maintaining friendships on The Friendship Blog, offers advice on navigating the sometimes-tricky territory of platonic male-female friendships (Page 19).

This February, I propose a twist to your Valentine’s Day plans: Let your significant other off the hook (I can hear the guys cheering!), and take time instead to celebrate a significant friend. Hit the town together (see Best-Friend Bonding for great ideas, Page 20), regale your BFF with a heartfelt gift (Shopping, Page 47) or dedicate an entire weekend to your favorite gal pal(s) (Girlfriend Getaways, Page 44).

For me, Valentine’s Day has never been about just one kind of love. I’ve always spent the day with my family, celebrating my mom’s birthday, and only when I was old enough did romance become part of the mix.

This year, I’m adding one more toast: Here’s to Debbie, my best friend for life.

A Priceless Day

You have three goals for your Sunday: wash your car, wash your clothes, wash yourself.

You’ve accomplished two of the three when you find yourself driving by the Farmer’s Market on Fairfax. You pull in and find a parking place right away, which you think is a good omen. This must be where you’re supposed to be.

You wander in and, before you know it, you’re totally lost and turned around, but you don’t mind. You just go with it. You walk through a narrow hallway and find yourself surrounded by produce, grapefruits on the left, long stalks of asparagus to your right. You walk by a crepe stand and inhale the smell of toasted nuts. You wander by a glass case that’s filled with wheels of cheese and jars of Nutella.

A guy asks for a quarter, and you give him a dollar.

You hear people speaking French, and you walk by a table of senior citizens, two of them reading The Jewish Journal. You smile.

At this point, you have no idea where you are in relation to your car. You set a goal for yourself, and it’s a simple one: deciding what to eat. You browse a shrimp salad the size of a human head. You flirt with the idea of a sub or an ice cream sundae. Secretly, you know those crepes are going to call you home, but you look, nonetheless.

Passing by a schlocky tourist store, you spy a stack of Chinese silk purses. You fiddle with them, testing the zippers and imagining yourself with each color before choosing an off-white coin purse and a turquoise wallet. You pay the man $4.79 and call him “sir” in your most polite voice.

Back in the fray, you pass a candy stall and notice rows of baggies, all $2, each filled with a different variety of gummy candies. You choose a bag of Swedish fish, carefully selecting the bag with the most red ones, because everyone knows the red fish are the best. You chew one as you find yourself back at the crepe stand.

You read the sports section as you wait for your tuna-and-swiss cheese crepe. It’s taking a while, but you don’t get annoyed, because you’re only goal is to eat, and you’re well on your way.

You sit in the sun, munching your crepe and remembering why canned tuna should never be served hot. You push aside the fish and eat the crepe shell, which is chewy and amazing. You understand at that moment why most religious faiths pray over food. You’re not really up on the correct prayer for a crepe, but you feel a sense of gratitude all the same.

You notice that other people are in couples, but you don’t feel jealous. You know that no one would have put up with all this wandering and purse shopping and painstaking Swedish fish selecting and endless, pointless staring at piles of beans and rice. You make a point of smiling at absolutely everyone who will look at you. You notice the candle shop will be giving out henna tattoos next week, and you vow to return.

You think about those credit card commercials: bag of gummy fish, $2; tuna crepe, $6; two silk purses, $4.79; fleeting sense of grace, priceless.

Teresa Strasser is a twenty something contributing writer for The Jewish Journal.