We would sit, around her kitchen table, our coke glasses filled with ice and sweating in paper napkins and talk for hours.  Sometimes singing, sometimes quoting movies, ruthlessly teasing her mother, even mocking great historical figures (Oh, you Venerable Bede, you great big Venerable Bede...why the hell did we even study him, anyway?).  Always laughing.  Always laughing.

Slumber parties in my bedroom, or her family room, watching St. Elmo's Fire and About Last Night (Was Rob Lowe really naked in that one scene?  Did we ever decide?) and giggling under the pillows.  Always laughing.

We made your dad bring you to my house one snowy winter evening (No school tomorrow!), and that night we walked for hours in the chill twilight.  The Ingalls Girls from Hell.  "Smell your way to that damn cabin, Mary."  Laughing until we fell into the snow drifts.  Always laughing.

Driving (once we could) to the mountains in the summer.  New York Seltzers and Funyuns (god knows, I still love them!), singing to George Michael's Faith at the top of our lungs, waving at construction workers and, of course, laughing.

We quoted songs and movies endlessly, Into the Woods and thirtysomething.  How do you know what you want till you get what you want and you see if you like it?  We made up stories, walking in my neighborhood or yours, or a night away in Gatlinburg (my first Girls' Weekend!) about our futures.  The men we'd meet and marry.  The ones who'd love us to distraction.  We'd pick a spot on the map, based on its name (and proximity to the ocean!) and plan to live there "happily ever after."  Once, in college where "women" became "womyn," I was chastised by a roommate for such sexist day dreams.  The dads on the beach with the kids while you and I chatted in the kitchen, making ham sandwiches.  I could laugh now I suppose, at such simple dreams, but they haven't changed, really.  You and me, laughing and our families intertwined.  Bring who you want, my dear, no dads need apply.  

I'll make a shameless appeal, right here in front of all four of my readers, to bring you and your daughter to me.  Come to the beach and the little gray house.  Let's go shopping and walk beside the ocean and drive-in to Sonic for lunch.  Time, distance and contact can't erase it for me.  How I feel for you.  My oldest friend, dearest too.  Right there beside my heartbeat you are nestled in.  Right there, next to the echoes of laughter.  All you.  I hope you've had a wonderful day, birthday girl.  I've been thinking of you.

p.s.  I found a picture, but Neel wouldn't let me post it.  It was in a box filled with so much old stuff.  My college acceptance letter, pictures of my mom and dad and an old boyfriend.  It was taken that time we went to Isle of Palms (our only road trip, can you believe it?).  When was that?  Summer after our freshman year in college?  You're wearing a sailor cap (huh?) and clearly singing a song.  It's a great picture actually, but, hey, that's okay.  I've given the lack of posted photos as a present before.  But you know what else I found?  Our old Wills and Prophecies from our senior year of high school.   E-gads.  Seriously.  And do you know what I willed you?  "Belief in your possibilities."  Go figure.  Still true.  Happy birthday, my dear.  I love you.