22:29:54 | 2001-03-11

I just returned from the wedding of my oldest friend, so you'll have to indulge me if I go a bit teary on this entry.

I'd like to tell you about her, who is as much a part of me and my childhood and coming of age, as anything about me.

We met when I was four, and she was six-going-on-seven. I was sitting in all of my 4-year-old glory on the stoop to my parents place, on St. James Place at the shore , wearing my favorite pink t-shirt emblazoned with an iron-on picture of the Fonze. I had shorn blonde curly locks that framed my face. I was sitting on the steps, plaing the radio and singing my favorite song to myself, Shawn Cassidy's "Doo Run, Run."

C. rode by, just a pixie of a 6-year-old with bouncing blonde pigtails, looking tres, tres on on her banana-seat bike with training wheels. I was enamored. I coveted those banana seats bikes, but I was too young for a two-wheeler.

She flew past me, got a couple of feet ahead of our house and came to an abrupt stop. She circled back and pulled up to my stoop, and told me that "Doo Run, Run" was her favorite song. "Me too!" I yelled and we had a sing off. I don't think we stopped singing that song until the summer was over and our respective parents took us, crying, away from each other and back to school.

She returned to Pittsburgh and I went back to small town PA. We met again the following summer. Our parents were fast friends - maybe they had no choice because our friendship was infectious - and our families seemed to merge.

She had a brother my age, I had a brother 3 years older than her. We formed a tight group. But beneath it all, it was her and me. Each summer morning we rode our bikes to Morning Sports, a kind of day camp at the shore. Some days we had gymnastics classes. The afternoons were spent at the beach into early morning. We didn't have to stick with our parents, because they knew we had each other. We ruled that beach. From the minute we got out of morning sports and we went to one or the others house and made sandwiches and then walked down the street to our beach. We played through sunset in the water and the sand. Rafts, run the bases, sandcastles, catching snails. The lifeguards knew all of us and would chase us at the shoreline.

On rainy days we still went to the beach, with all the rest of the neighborhood kids, and played wiffle ball. C. was a natural athlete. I was usually doing handstands or cartwheels until it was my turn at bat.

We used to trade baseball cards, but I didn't know anything about baseball so I always ended up giving up my Pete Rose or Mike Schmidt for like 2 guys who were like 39 years old and just out of the minors and they would tell me that I made out like a bandit because I got two of their cards for my one. I still have my baseball card collection.

At night, we went up to the boardwalk. All of us together. Walking, running, screaming, laughing. We spent our allowance on penny candy and amusement park rides and arcade games. We met boys. We ran home to make curfew when the street lights came on. We had sleepovers.

I remember when C. came back one Memorial Day and she had braces. I was laying on my towel in our spot from a year ago, and she kicked my thigh and said "hi." I rolled over, excited, because I had been waiting for her, and I looked up into a halo of sunlight and in the middle of the circle was a sharp gleam of metal. I was so jealous. I wanted braces too.

C. showed me how to use a tampon. I remember to this day, she gave me one and sent me in the bathroom and I came out and she said, isn't that so better than those pads and I said, "It's so uncomfortable and it's still sticking out." She told me I must not have inserted it all the way. I had to bring her in there and show her and I remember her looking and then laughing so hard she was crying - I had inserted the whole thing - plastic applicator and all. I was so angry. "You didn't tell me the plastic thing comes out!" I accused.

I inherited C.'s first job. It was cleaning this old woman's boardinghouse for 20 dollars a day. C. had to give it up because she was getting ready to go to college and it was time for her to make real money.

The first time I ever got drunk was with her. I was 12, she was 15 and it was 4th of July. My brother snuck beers for us at the party at our parents. When I was 14 and being sent to Tennis camp, we had a huge party the night before. C. and I got really drunk. I had 17 beers. We know this, because apparently all night I walked around telling all of my brothers college friends that I had 17 beers. At the end of the night, my brother found C. and I sharing a toilet in the upstairs bathroom. Each of us violentally sick from the alcohol.

She wrote me letters everyday when I was at that 3-week camp. All I could think about was the fun I was missing.

When she went to college that next year, I flew up to Boston to see her. Just 15 years old, I can hardly believe my parents let me go. But I did and we will talk about that weekend forever.

After college, she stayed up in Boston to work. We grew apart. I was heading off to college, she was in Boston with the people she had spent the last 4 years with, growing more. But she would call down to the shore on her birthday in July, and we would be at her parents house, celebrating her even though she was far away. When she would call, we would all fight for the phone - my family and hers - to wish her well and inevitably, both sides would have to hang up because we realized how much we missed each other.

And then she moved back. She moved back to Philly and I moved to NYC and suddenly we were in proximity. I took the bus to the shore every summer weekend for the last 5 years. She and my brother were roommates now. She would pick me up from the bus, tunes blasting and smoke in hand. "Are you excited!?," she would squeal. "God, this is so my happy place," we would both say, and laugh.

I remember when she met this guy (her husband) and how much I hated him. I realize now, that's because he represented the grown up version her and he made me realize how we had grown far enough apart for this to be her type now.

I remember when he broke her heart on Valentine's Day, when they were in St. Bart's. I remember her calling me and crying, because he had said he never loved her. I remember being there to tell her to forget him. He's an idiot.

I remember being more scared than she was when they got back together. I was with her, when he proposed for the first time - over the phone in a desparate attempt to keep her from walking away. I remember reading this face I have known since childhood and watching her crying. I remember crying with her. Telling her to hang up the phone.

I remember getting her drunk. I remember thinking that I had to be strong. I remember the string of dates she had after this guy. Loser after loser. God, they all sucked.

I remember out of the blue one day two years ago, I had a premontion. I turned to a friend and I asked if he had called her again. Were they in contact? No, my friend said. "God, that's long over. Why would you even think that?" "I don't know," I said, "I think he's coming back into her life. And when he does, it will be for good."

I remember when she confided to me that she had run into him on Thanksgiving at the grocery store and that they were going to have dinner. "Just to talk," she said.

And I knew the deal would be done.

So here I am, almost two years later. Crying at my computer for my oldest friend. Who yesterday, was the most beautiful bride I have ever seen. She put that princess dress on with the veil and the tiara and she stood in front of me and I kept it together but I can tell you that I saw her at 6, doing handsprings down the beach. I saw her at 10 chasing me and playing Ghost in the Graveyard. I saw her at 15 drinking silly winecoolers with me. I saw her at 18 smoking pot with me when our parents were asleep. I saw her at 22, trying to figure out what she should do with her life. I saw her face, at 25, just as it was in the wee hours of the morning when we were lounging on the porch furniture long after everyone else had gone to bed. Her face illuminated by a candle, inhaling a drag of a cigarette as she told me that she just figured it out. "Even if I don't find that person and get married, I'm going to be okay. I know I'm going to be okay."

I saw her face when her heart had been broken and I realized how much she loved this man that I hardly knew. I saw her face last summer, when she turned 30 and positively beamed at her fiance.

She found her Shawn Cassidy and "Doo Run, Runned" right up that aisle, joining hands with him and consenting to be his partner for whatever life has in store for them.

She caught my eye, as she knelt next to him on the alter and I sat with the other bridesmaids, on the alter to her left. She beamed like I have never seen her beam. Her face was illuminescent. Their joy seemed ethereal.

As I stood there last night and told her that I am so happy for her and that I wish her the best and that she the most beautiful bride I have ever seen, I felt totally inadequate.

There was so much more I felt and saw and wished for her but there was no time now. He was there and waiting and they were off, to begin a new life.

If you are reading this C., if you know about this site and happen to read this, I just want you to know how much I love you and how incredibly happy I am for you.

And for crying out loud, somebody pass me a tissue.

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