It took me 50 years to discover the power of a childhood friend. It all started when I was shipped off to sleep away camp in the summer of 1969 and met Betsy Brown. By 1975 we were already too old for camp.
Would we still be friends without that sacred month of August spent in the White New Hampshire Mountains? There was no Facebook, cell phones or emails. Betsy in Rhode Island and me in Long Island. How would we find each other?
Was it kismet in 1984, on my first day in the US Senate, when I realized I now had the job that very same Betsy Brown just left? Even then Betsy was always ahead of me. Does it even matter?
What I didn’t know is that this relationship would be so defining five decades later. Not because of the time we spent together. Instead, due to the spans of time we didn’t.
Three months ago, Betsy Brown texted me that she had breast cancer. She asked me to be ‘one of her six’ and spend a Chemotherapy treatment with her.
I was floored. All these years later, her loving family, friends and network at her back, and she wanted me! This alone made me feel loved, seen and appreciated.
As I sat across from Betsy Brown, with the toxic drugs dripping into her, she gave me the most incredible gift. I saw myself how she saw me. How she knew me before life got busy and messy.
Her thoughts, my soul. Her words, my story. Her love, so powerful. I saw my authentic self through her eyes. I thought I had lost little pieces of myself over the years. Betsy Brown showed me they were still there.
What were the defining characteristics of my Betsy Brown relationship?
Over the years, we met for coffee, had drinks, and a few catch-up calls. But now was different. This was real time. Sleeping at her house, staying with her family, watching her in one of her toughest hours.
I was so nervous. Would she still like me? But from the moment I stepped through the door, it was just the two of us. No time had passed at all and we were in sync. Laughing, talking away, feeling comfortable together.
Dorothy had to go all the way to OZ to figure out what was important. There are no right or wrong answers. It’s just how you show up with people.
In many situations, I people-please or feel like I am walking on egg shells. Not with Betsy Brown. Without trying, my best self came out to play. Just as it should. I’d like all the people in my life to make me be my best self.
I wasn’t sure if the things that had been important to me at age 10 would be the same at this age. With all that time apart from Betsy Brown, would we still have the same opinions and likes? Would we be in sync?
Easy Peasy. We had the same likes and kept the same easy rhythm. With the same thoughts we re like kindred souls. And yet, she was still ahead of me, bounding up the stairs at the Chemo center as I slogged along.
We all know that what keeps a relationship interesting is not only old memories, but also the present we live in. The new, freshly shared experiences bond us. Building on the past while simultaneously starting new traditions keeps us connected.
The things we have in common and never even discussed are so many. For instance, we both want to go to Alaska. Not on a cruise, ferry hopping.
We also want to see Iceland. We love a good coffee house. And of course, laughing at the same things while others would just cock their heads and say, “Huh.”
Find your Betsy. Hug her tight and don’t let go for the rest of your life! Watch Beaches and cry your eyes out. Remember the best line, “I know everything about you and my memory is very long.”
Watch the Natural, and remember the signature line, “I believe we have two lives. The one we believe we will have and the one we end up living with.”
Success is figuring out how to have no regrets and learning to walk the path between those two lives to make your inner peace. Your Betsy Brown will guide you.
Have you reconnected with a friend from your childhood? Tell us about your experience and how you found each other. Please join the conversation below.