best friends
BY JUDY BLUME
 
 
 
Christmas pageant

Christmas Pageant, 1951 Joanne Tischler, left - Judy in center - Mary, right
  Mary

Summer Sisters is dedicated to Mary Weaver. Though we never spent our summers together she was and still is my "summer sister", my soulmate. We met in seventh grade homeroom and connected right from the start--Sullivan and Sussman--like a vaudeville act. And we became a team, best friends through junior high, high school and into college. Twins separated at birth--identical in size--one with a beautiful Irish face, the other a Jewish girl with a pony tail. Inseparable.
 

1956 Year Book, Battin High School, Elizabeth, New Jersey
Judy, left - Mary, right
I'd forgotten to bring a quote for my picture so Mary lent me her book that morning and I choose something sweet and girlish, while Mary's quote was dramatic and, I thought, exciting, like her.
  yearbook photos

  editors of the school paper

Editors of High Spots, the school paper
Joanne, left - Judy, Mary - Ellen, right
Mary and I were co-feature editors. Ellen, another close friend, with whom I'd lost touch, died of breast cancer a few years ago.
  My mother, who wanted me to be perfect, recognized Mary's beauty and winning personality but didn't feel threatened because Mary wasn't Jewish. Therefore, she and I weren't competing for the same boys. When I look back now and think of the times I lied to my mother to please her, to assure her that yes, indeed, I was the most popular, best all round girl, I cringe. I kept my anxieties to myself. Only my eczema gave me away.

Yet my friendship with Mary survived and blossomed. I had what she wanted. A father who thought I was wonderful. A secure home where no one had to worry about paying the rent. Piles of cashmere sweaters (even if they were bought wholesale). An older brother away at college.

And her life seemed romantic to me. The struggle. The bond with her mother. The irreverent sense of humor. Beauty, popularity. She didn't have to worry about being such a good girl, such a perfect girl, or so I thought at the time. She kept her demons to herself. Didn't we all in the fifties?

There was a chemistry between us. Being together was so damn much fun! We felt so smug with our quick repartee and our private jokes. And the drama! We were both interested in theater, both dreamed of being on stage, like Susan Strasberg, in The Diary of Ann Frank--or in movies, like Natalie Wood, in Rebel Without a Cause--both of whom were just our age.
  Judy and Mary going to Annapolis

Mary and me on our way to June Week at Annapolis. 1956.
 

  Judy and Mary with babies

Mary, with her baby daughter, Anne - and Judy, front, with Randy. 1961
  Loss

Mary was at my side when my father died suddenly, just weeks before my wedding to John Blume, following my junior year of college. She was in pain, too, but we didn't talk about how his death affected her until recently.

Ultimately, it was my marriage, and just a year or so later, hers, that separated us. Even though we had baby daughters born two months apart our lives were already very different. She lived in New York and I lived in the suburbs of New Jersey. Her husband, a Wasp who came from old money was an academic, mine was a hustling young lawyer. The men had nothing in common.

  I felt the loss of that friendship. I was lonely in my marriage and missed the camaraderie of my old friends. I was constantly hoping to find someone with whom I could connect. Each time a moving van brought a new family to our cul-de-sac, I'd be out there, a welcome committee of one, hoping this would be it. It never was.   Judy with her kids

Judy with Larry and Randy at Randy's graduation from pre-school 1966.
Writing out of loneliness and the need to fill a creative void.
 

  Judy and Mary in Maine

Judy, left, visiting Mary in Maine. Summer, 1980.
  Years Later

Mary and I never stopped being friends and we never really lost touch. We just didn't get to spend much time together and when we tried it as a foursome it never really worked.

She became the kindergarten teacher I was trained to be. I started to write, out of loneliness, maybe even desperation. I was the ambitious one, driven and determined, though I didn't know it at the time.

If Mary were writing this it would be entirely different, I'm sure, and even now I know more about us than I'm telling. Our history runs deep. Our genuine feelings for one another, deeper. We are friends for life.
 

  We've spent more time together in the past few years than we have since we were kids. We celebrated Big Birthdays at dinner recently, together with Joanne, a third friend. The three of us went through puberty together. College. We married, had babies, went to work, lost parents, and two of us are grandmothers. But when we're together the years fall away. Isn't that what matters? To have someone who can remember with you? To have someone who remembers how far you've come?   Mary and Judy on Martha's Vineyard

Mary, left, visiting Judy on the Vineyard. Summer, 1996.
 

  Summer Sisters   Caitlin and Vix

Is the relationship between Caitlin and Vix in Summer Sisters based on my friendship with Mary? Before I sat down to write these notes I'd have told you absolutely not. Their story is much darker, more seductive, more competitive, and Caitlin and Vix are totally different personalities. Yet it is about two young women from different backgrounds whose friendship begins at twelve and endures.

Vix finds Caitlin irresistable--the danger, the daring, the thrill of becoming a part of her eccentric family. From Vix, Caitlin receives unconditional love. But they are also rivals. After all, one marries the other's first love. Aside from a ninth grade crush, Mary and I were never in love with the same man. Not that I know of, anyway.

Copyright © 1998 by Judy Blume
 
 
 
 
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