So I first met Virginia when we started kindergarten together a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. We were in virtually every class together and became great friends. She was one of the most popular girls in our school and I was happy to be part of her circle. She hosted the best sleepover parties, lived in an incredible three-story townhouse (which seemed like a mansion to me compared to the apartment my family shared) and had much older siblings who gave our 10 year-old selves makeup and dating advice. She lost her mother while still at a young age but was lucky enough to be surrounded by her father, her Aunt Bernice (who died her hair green every St. Patrick’s Day and wore false eyelashes when no one else did) and her brother and sisters.
Back when we were 12 and – fortunately while my entire family was gone for the day – a terrible fire tore through our building a week before Christmas. We lost everything we owned. We had no clothes, no furniture, no toys. And no place to stay. We had to start over, and start over quickly. My parents and youngest sister went one place, my other sister went to stay with her friend. Virginia and I happened to live just a few blocks away and I was able to stay with her for a few days until my parents could find a place where we all could be back together and try to rebuild our lives.
What we all remember from that horrible day are two things. First was that we were all safe and all together. Like my mother always liked to remind us, anything can be replaced except people. And the second thing we learned was that, when things are bad and you need a friend, your true friends come through and are there for you, especially during one of the worst times in your life.
Today is Virginia ’s birthday and we are still friends. I don’t know if I’ve ever thanked her adequately enough for taking me in that cold and awful December night but she was the best possible friend anyone could hope to have.