Wherever we are, this 22-year friendship will be as strong as ever

Kim and I met when we hadn’t yet learned how to read. Earlier this month — moments before she said her wedding vows — she asked me to be her witness and sign her ketubah. Of course I said yes. I did so feeling honored and grateful that 22 years after we first met as children, our friendship continues to grow into adulthood.

Kim’s imprint on my childhood is surpassed only by my family.

We met when we were 5 years old, or maybe 6. She lived in my neighborhood and quickly became a frequent summertime and after-school playmate. We soon became best friends.

We were only 12 days apart in age. We rode bikes, played capture the flag in our backyards and had lots of slumber parties. If we were at my house, we gave my little sister shiny pennies to go away and leave us alone.

We bought each other friendship necklaces. We dressed up together for Halloween, one year in poodle skirts and another in flannel as bums. We played softball together in a community league. We helped each other cheat on spelling tests. We talked about boys.

We went to theater camp. One summer we were cast to sing a duet in a musical revue: “Together, Wherever We Go” from “Gypsy.” We wore ponytails on opposite sides of our heads so that when we hugged each other on stage, it would look like one person.

When I was in a bad car accident the summer before sixth grade, Kim bought me a doll dressed in green scrubs. We called her Gettie Wellie Soonie. Kim held my hand and told me not to worry when I confessed I was afraid to start sixth grade with scars on my face.

She moved to Texas later that year. We wrote each other letters (letters! On stationery!) every week.

Her family moved back to Ohio in seventh grade, just in time for Kim to be at my bat mitzvah. This time she lived about a 15 minute drive from my house.

I recently found a folded-up piece of notebook paper dated 1994 and titled “Stacey’s strengths and weaknesses.” It was a list Kim had made me in the seventh grade. The strengths were five times longer than the weaknesses.

In high school, we both joined ski club and the Israeli culture club (for the free falafel). We also joined BBYO. As freshmen, we served as co-editors of our chapter’s newspaper.

We then became interested in different things. We drifted. She became less active in BBYO and sought out new (cooler) friends in our high school. I became more deeply invested in youth group. We stopped eating lunch together.

Yet the bond of childhood refused to break. We danced together at our senior prom. She came to my 18th birthday party. We visited each other during college and then after, when she moved in with her boyfriend, Nate, and as I drifted across the country from Indiana to Iowa to Washington to California.

Our friendship changed, but our love, admiration and respect did not.

And this is why our friendship has endured. Because we recognized that it was possible to grow up without growing apart.

It wasn’t easy at first. I remember as a teenager being sad, angry and frustrated, wondering if I had lost my friend. We eventually learned to trust that what we built as children somehow could be sustained as adults.

Now we’ve emerged alike once again. We’ve both become lovers of camping, hiking, yoga and gardening. We still find the same things funny. We have become introspective and thoughtful women who give generously of their time and energy to their friends and family.

As the Jewish New Year approaches, I can think of no better time than to reconnect with an old, dear friend.

How amazing: To sign my best friend’s ketubah. To watch as she said “I do” under a gazebo draped in flowers. To listen to the sound of broken glass as Nate stomped on a wine glass. To see the joy on their faces as they walked up the aisle, husband and wife, life partners.

My 6-year-old self could never have imagined the immense pride and love I would feel 22 years later for the girl who helped me grow up.

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.