It takes a long time to grow an old friend.

Like most first graders, I was both excited and nervous about school. Maybe more nervous than some, since I had not attended kindergarten, so did not really know what to expect, and had no friends in my class.

I'm sure my parents weren't the least bit worried about either situation. They knew I was more than ready academically for grade one, and although I had very little confidence in my ability to make friends, my parents must have seen the gregariousness of my nature and knew I wouldn't be friendless for long.

On the first day of class, the desks were arranged in groups of six, with three desks tight beside each other facing three other desks in the same arrangement, all touching like we were around an oddly-slanted dividable table. I don't remember if I sat in the middle of a side, or on the end--something is telling me I was sandwiched in between two other kids.

That was the first time I met Amanda. She sat directly across from me, her brown hair cut short in a boy-type crop, and her blue eyes sparkling with all the friendliness evident in her smile. Unlike me, she had attended kindergarten the previous year, knew most of the kids in the class, and realized right away that I was new. That, and her natural boldness, is why I am sure she must have introduced herself to me first, not the other way around.

It wasn't long before we were buddies who did everything together. She was fascinated by my long blond hair which I often kept in side braids. For this reason, when we were "pretending" horsies, I always got to be the horse, because those braids made the best darn reins ever. (Amanda enjoyed this arrangement much more than I did.)

After grade one, we were not in the same class again until high school, but we maintained our friendship at recess--we loved to "pretend" Ella Mae, and describe all the animals we had as our friends, especially the pet monkeys that were always clinging to our necks. She grew about a foot taller than most of our peers between second and third grade, and I remember being startled when she came back to school that year with--*gasp*--BOOBS! Now that I have the perspective of being on "the other side" of puberty, I know that it wasn't quite the blessing I had dreamed it would be at the time, but of course it made her wildly popular--with the boys, at least. Shortly after that, she went to Tanzania with her parents for a missions trip that lasted most of the school year. Between that and the separation of being in different classes, our friendship kind of ebbed for a few years.

I spent grades six, seven and nine in a private school, and although Amanda and I hung out a bit when I was back in public for grade eight, it wasn't until the tenth grade, when I returned to public school for good, that we finally renewed and built upon the friendship we had started. This was helped along by my switch to attending the church she and her family were attending at the time, and both of us being heavily involved in the youth group there.

As we have aged and seasoned, so has our friendship. It survived the boyfriends that came and went. It survived the moves far from each other, then close to each other again. Our husbands became friends after we were married. (Heck, Amanda almost dated my husband when they were teenagers!) Our children are close in age and are all friends. (For more information on that little love triangle, see here! Oo, did I mention that Emily has now decided that she wants to marry Jabin?) The memories we have built are entwined in the tapestries of both our lives like beautiful accents of gold.

Amanda is the friend who is not afraid to ask you the hard questions. Her boldness can border on rudeness, coming across as lacking in tact, but anyone who knows her knows that she is not trying to tear anyone down by her candidness--she loves people, and because she cares, she just feels she has to say something. It may not always be the right thing to do, but the heart behind it is pure. It's awfully hard to get away with anything with a friend like that. She just won't let you deceive yourself, darnit!

She is competitive, which used to annoy the heck out of me. Either she has mellowed with age in this regard, or we are just in fewer situations where the competitiveness is apparent. However, it is her desire to do everything to the best of her ability that is one of the things I admire.

In high school, we would practice our French and study for Biology together; now we compare first words and nurse each other's plants and pets when the other is away. We have gone from comparing crushes to encouraging each other in our relationships with our husbands. We learn from each other as we discipline our children, clean our houses, and plant our gardens. The similarity of our personalities has driven us both crazy at times, but helped us to understand each other and ourselves better, too.

Amanda has helped me appreciate the value of having a friend that you can just be with. When we were new here, though she lived an hour away at the time, our brief visits were wonderful respite from the loneliness of being surrounded by people whom I neither knew nor was known by. When your friendship has this kind of longevity, it's kind of like being an old married couple--you are comfortable enough around each other that the silence you share has as much value as the words. You know you are loved, and don't feel the need to keep checking on the fact.

Whoever you may be, reading this, I wish this for you: that you, too, may have at least one friend like this, and hopefully several. If you know you already do, take the time to let them know over the next few days--by word or action, just remind them how much you appreciate their presence in your life. (I just did.)

Because even though friends like this may not need to hear it--it's still nice to know.