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MY FRIEND, CINDY

In FINDING MR. RIGHTSTEIN, I call her Louise. In life, I call her a true friend.

When we were 12, Cindy invited me to her house after school. I was thrilled. She was—still is—so cool. Upon meeting me, her on-the-phone mother, told her friend to hold, and said, “Nancy, why don’t you stay for dinner?”

I stayed. I’ve been on the American plan at Cindy’s ever since.

Cindy’s mother baked every day. Her house was filled with great smells, great desserts, and me at the kitchen table. My house was filled with books. It became Cindy’s lending library. “What should I take, Mr. D?” she’d ask my father, looking through the shelves. They discussed whatever they read.

Cindy and I discussed everything. At each other’s houses and on the phone every night.

I didn’t have a Sweet Sixteen. For my 17th birthday, she and her mother made me a surprise birthday luncheon. After an operation my mother had, Cindy and her mother were the first to come over with a gift.

When Cindy did not get the hang of geometry or the hang, as I did, of cheating, I gave her the name of a math tutor a relative used.

“Cindy knows just enough math to get by,” my father said, “but she knows what’s really important.”

The noisy car she drove in high school had a dropped muffler among other problems including brakes that didn’t work. She didn’t come to a full stop. When she’d pick me up for school or to go anywhere, I’d hear her chugging down Covington Avenue. She’d honk when she’d get close. I’d run out, jump in, and we’d laugh.

We moved to NYC the same year. When she got divorced, I plied her with Brandy Alexanders. We rolled around my living room floor. Drunk. When I got divorced, we already had kids. She called every morning between 7:00-7:30 to get me up, to make sure I was alive and to let me cry.

And to let me discuss what I thought went wrong. “Stop,” she’d say. “That wasn’t the problem. The problem was he didn’t get how special you are.” It was the most loving thing a loving friend could say.

Whenever we go out to eat, we split two things. “That’s gross,” said one of our daughters one time when Cindy and I shared 2 dishes that didn’t at all go together.

Last week, she came early to Shakespeare & Co. to my FINDING MR. RIGHTSTEIN event even though she had a prior commitment that night. She’s shown up early for readings for all my books, pre-ordered the books, repeatedly told me how terrific they are, and bought tons more for friends.

When my father died, she called me every morning again between 7:00-7:30. When my mother died, she flew to Buffalo for the funeral, came with my family after to Anderson’s (yes, Andersons), and flew home.

Since we were 12, Cindy’s been Showing Up. “She knows just enough math to get by,” my father said, “but she know what’s REALLY IMPORTANT.”

Indeed.

There are many things I may never have in my lifetime. A true friend isn’t one.

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