Do you — or did you ever — have a Best Friend? Do you believe in the idea of one person whose friendship matters the most?
9:00. Time to teach. I checked the clock one last time to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me, sighed, and headed to the pool deck. Everything was unusually warm that day, but that was just overcompensation for the past week. It was so cold, some kids simply gave up and got out just to wrap themselves in their towels. I had no such luxury.
Warm water meant chatty kids. Two four-year-old girls held hands sitting on the deck, waiting to get in. From their constant giggling I could tell they were good friends, probably from school. Now, this can be a good or bad thing. I had a kid once who wouldn’t let go of his friend’s hand, which is never helpful when you’re trying to teach someone how to not drown. Then again, there was also that little girl who helped convince her friend that it was alright; the water wasn’t that bad. I only heard that friend cry for twenty minutes that day. The improvement was tremendous.
“We’re best friends,” the little girl in my class blurted out. She was so excited to tell me, she was pulling on her pink frilly swim suit with her free hand twisting the frills into swirls. The other girl smiled shyly, scratching at her mop of wet brown hair. Pink Suit girl started hopping up and down, the way most kids do when they need to pee.
“That’s awesome; do you guys know each other from school?” I asked as I helped the first classmate into the water. I cringed. Let the crying begin. Usually the criers were the last ones in the water, but this kid was a sneaky one; there was no trouble until he was stuck on that wall, screaming for mama.
“Yeah! We even went to Pre-K together!” Pink Suit shouted over the chaos. I helped her into the water, and her mouth opened up into a wide grin. I could never ever tell whether that kind of grin was because the kids were so excited to be swimming or because they were freezing their butts off.
The shier girl nodded and smiled in agreement as I helped her into the water. “Teacher, do you have a best friend?” she asked.
“Me? I, uh,” I hesitated. Most kids don’t ask for my name, let alone whether or not I have a best friend. Does Siena have a best friend? “Yeah, I have a best friend.” Telling a kid I don’t have a best friend seemed so depressing at the time.
“Do you hang out with her like, every day?” The shy girl asked.
Pink Suit chimed in. “We hang out all the time! Our mommies are best friends, too!”
The whole class was in the water, and starting to shiver and kick around. My I-can-tell-when-kids-are-about-to-cry senses were tingling. Ignoring the shy girl’s question, I started the class. The answer to her question was no, anyway. Friendships change and grow and end and restart again. A best friend is someone who sticks it out with you through thick and thin. Who was my best friend?
Is it bad that a four-year-old kid’s question bothered me so much? Do I have a best friend? Rest assured I have friends, but a best friend?
The rest of the class went by lost in thought, not that any of the kids could tell. I called over the next class, where immediately I spied twin boys sprinting to get to the edge of the pool. “WALK” was screamed over and over again by lifeguards, my boss, and even parents, but nothing was stopping those two.
“We’re Tommie and Mike,” they said at the same time when they reached me, all out of breath. Red hair, hand-me-down-looking swim suits. These must be the Weasley twins, reincarnated. Just kidding. They were just like those other two girls, giggling to themselves and sharing all sorts of secrets. Something about them made me smile inspite of myself, inspite of the miniature internal struggle I was having.
“Now, are you guys brothers by any chance?” I asked sarcastically, tickling their feet and getting a big laugh out of both of them.
“Nope!” One twin shouted with glee, and the twins melted into a hopeless puddle of laughter.
“So you’re not related, huh?” I continued to play the little game; kids love that stuff.
The other one answered this time. “Nope,” he echoed, “we’re best friends!”
I laughed right with them as I began helping kids in the pool.
And then it hit me.
“Teacher, do you have a best friend?” the eerily familiar question hung in the air. Both of the twins, along with the rest of the class were staring at me, waiting for an answer.
Who has been with me through thick and thin? Who is the one person I truly and always care about? Or rather, who has been there for most of my life and for all of his?
“Of course I do!” I answered. “See, I have a brother, just like you. And he is my very best friend.”