Best Friends

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. We pretended to be twins separated at birth–identical in size–one with a beautiful Irish face, the other a Jewish girl with a pony tail. Inseparable.

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.

Above (left): Editors of High Spots, the school paper. From left: Joanne, Judy, Mary, and Ellen. 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. Right: Mary and me on our way to June Week at Annapolis. 1956.

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 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 Anne Frank–or in movies, like Natalie Wood, in Rebel Without a Cause–both of whom were just our age.

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.

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In Reference:

Above, Christmas Pageant, 1951
Joanne Tischler, left – Judy in center—Mary, right

Top, left: 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.