When my kids were little, one of their favorite books was “Are You My Mother?”, a lovely picture book by J.D. Eastman that tells the story of a newly hatched baby bird who is left alone while his Mother is off finding food for him. He decides to go look for her.
“Where is my Mother? I did have a Mother. I know I did. I have to find her.”
The baby bird can’t fly so he walks and walks – and because he does not know what his Mother looks like, he walks right past her! On his search, he asks, in turn, the same question of a kitten, a hen, a dog, a cow, a boat, a plane and a “big thing” who snorts (a/k/a a steam shovel.)
“Are you my Mother?”
And each of them (The ones who can talk, that is. Somehow in this children’s book the kitten cannot talk but the hen, dog and cow can. Go figure.) replies:
Until at last the snort lands the baby bird back in the nest where he discovers his own Mother waiting there who knows him as he knows her.
I came across “Are You My Mother?” the other day while I was sorting through my kids’ childhood books (yes, I saved them) to give to my 1-year-old grandson (yes, I was a child bride).
The story of the baby bird speaks to the anxiety that all babies and kids feel when their mother is out of the room. We all had or have mothers; we need to know that they are there.
Just like women need to know that we have friends even if we can’t always see or speak to them. Which got me thinking. And worrying. Which led to an upsettingly vivid dream (one of my skill areas) in which I was searching f0r a BFF – a best friend forever – that singular and special girlfriend that the media tells us all of the celebs have so we should each have one, too.
But maybe I never had and don’t have a BFF?
In this dream I was walking (not very fast, because my right knee has been hurting me lately. I never walked that fast, anyway. But I digress.) and walking and searching for my BFF. I dreamt that, just like the baby bird, I went up to each of my female friends and asked them:
“Are you my BFF?”
And each of them replied:
“No, I am not your BFF. You must keep searching for your BFF.”
I do have many good friends (so I reassured myself in a semi-wakeful state.) I went to an all women’s college where I learned the value of female friends. I’ve worked hard over the years to keep up with friends from the schools I’ve attended and the jobs I’ve had. And then add in friends I’ve made through my kids’ schools, who I got to know in synagogue or met in my neighborhood. Friends from committees and boards. And of course my Book Club friends. But I don’t think any one of them truly qualifies as my very own BFF.
Why do I have to keep searching for a BFF?
In the many books I read as a bookworm child, all of the female main characters had best friends. Think of Nancy Drew (Bess) and Anne of Green Gables (Diana) and even Marjorie Morningstar (Marsha, at least for a while.)
So maybe, even before the term BFF was coined in the 1990’s (according to the Oxford Dictionary), I was primed to think that all women must have a BFF. And I’ve been searching all these years, not only while dreaming but while wide awake too, for one of my very own.
So here I am – older, wiser (I think) – and I actually now have the time to devote to a BFF. But maybe I’m just not the BFF type? – Can I call off the search?
I am actually pretty happy with the crew of close female friends I already have. Each is special. Each fulfills something different that I need in a female friend. And perhaps none of them could or should ever be my “everything-in-one-package BFF”.
I go to one close friend when I hit a new family crisis (she is on speed dial.) My best law school pal lives hours away but she and I are phone and email buddies. She knows the inside of my marriage as I know the inside of hers. (Don’t tell our husbands.) Another close friend is my opposite self – calm – her even temper soothes me and I imagine my more, shall we say, non-sedate persona makes her laugh. And I have regular lunches with another good friend whose son was born two days after my daughter; we raised our babies together and now are enjoying getting older together. More recently I made new friends in my writing class. (hum along with me, “make new friends, but keep the old. one is silver and the other gold.”)
Say it out loud, Nancy: you don’t have a single BFF! And that is O.K.!
I am making peace with the fact that instead of one BFF, I have many CFFs instead. Close Female Friends.
That is not a very catchy acronym, I realize. I don’t expect the Oxford Dictionary to adopt CFF as a trendy term anytime soon. But if you are like me, maybe you too can call off the BFF search.
Remember the baby bird in the story who didn’t know what his mother looked like? His search was successful. Good for him. My female friendship story can have a happy ending too.