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My daughter was a shy kid, and needed a friend like I had when I was her age.
My 10-year-old, Donna, burst through the front door. “Mom, I made a new friend at school today,” she said. “Can she come over tomorrow?” Donna was a shy kid and I had been praying for her to make some friends to bring her out of her shell.
“Sure, honey, that sounds great,” I said, thinking back to my own best friend growing up.
Lillian and I lived across the street from each other in Washington Heights, New York. We met at age 10 too, and were instantly joined at the hip. Like my daughter, I was introverted, but Lillian drew me out and boosted my confidence. She was one of the friendliest people in school. And beautiful too—with shiny black hair, so shiny it was almost indigo, and a mile-wide smile. I knew we would be best friends forever.
Senior year of high school Lillian went on a trip to Florida, the first time we’d be apart for more than a few days. “I’ll be back soon,” she told me. But three days later I answered my door to find Lillian’s sister standing there, a pall across her face. “Judy…Lillian’s…” She could hardly get the words out. My best friend had drowned on vacation.
Shortly afterward, my family moved to New Jersey. Over the years I lost touch with Lillian’s family. But I still thought of her often. Tears formed in my eyes whenever I did. What I wouldn’t give to feel close to her again.
The next day Donna brought her new friend home. “Hi, Mrs. Loggia,” the little girl said, skipping through the front door. She flipped her hair from her shoulders—hair so shiny and black it was almost indigo—and shot me a giant smile. “My name’s Lillian.”
That hair. That smile. Lillian. How wonderful—my daughter’s new friend was so much like the best friend I had lost.
I was still dizzy from the similarities when Lillian’s mom came by to pick her up later that afternoon. I opened the door to let her in.
“Judy!” she screamed. Before I knew it, her arms had wrapped me in a tight hug. Pretty friendly for someone I had never met!
“It’s me,” she said, laughing. “Lillian’s sister, from Washington Heights.”
Yes, my daughter’s friend looked familiar all right. She was my Lillian’s niece. Her namesake.