April, Shay, Michelle & Jennifer

Forever Friendships Reunited

Pictured Left to Right: April Murray Fisher, Shay Moree-Dew, Michelle Hartman, and Jennifer Wilkins

"Best friends forever." In high school, these words served as a promise many of us made to friends we were sure to be close to forever. Perhaps it was half of a heart pendant you wore around your neck, the letters "BFF" scribbled on notes, or simply a verbal promise lodged in your mind that reminds you of these friendships and the memories you shared.
Unfortunately, after high school many relationships fall apart or are pushed aside to make way for new trials, changes and opportunities in life. However, on rare occasions you have the chance to reconnect with those who helped shape you into the person you are today, and realize how important an old promise can be.

On October 16, the Hilton Head High School class of 1990 met for their 20-year reunion. For four women, this was a symbol of reconnection with their past after 20 years of trial and error. Shay Moree-Dew, Jennifer Wilkins, April Murray Fisher and Michelle Hartman were part of a group of friends who had drifted apart after high school, and in the last few years had a chance to rekindle the friendships they had left behind.

After high school the girls all took off to separate places for college to discover what they wanted to be when they "grew up". Michelle was the first to move back after college where she soon began teaching in the high school she had grown up in. "I had lofty goals of moving away and leaving this place behind, but once I left, I realized how good I had it here. There's something to be said about making a place for yourself in the place that made you," Michelle said.

Over the next 15 years they all dealt with their own circumstances, including failed marriages and careers, that brought them one-by-one back to the Island. Once they were home, they immediately realized this was the only place they wanted to be.

"I was amazed at how easy it was to come home. I originally came back so my son could be near my family, but it ended up being the best thing I've ever done," said April. Jennifer agreed: "When I was in high school I thought I wanted to travel and I did that. When I moved back from Colorado I was sure it was temporary. Now that I'm home, I realize I have great friends and an instant support system here, and I never want to lose that again."

Although the girls are intentional about making plans with each other, they all agree the great thing about being in the area is the chance to run into each other wherever they go. They meet up unexpectedly at festivals in Shelter Cove, parties thrown by common friends or strolling through the grocery store." We used to joke that Hilton Head was so small that if someone sneezed on the north end someone on the south end would say 'God bless you.' In high school it was more like if you got in trouble on the north end your parents on the south end already knew about it when you got home," laughed Shay. "Nowadays the smallness works to our advantage."

So how do these girls know they will truly be "best friends forever"? If history is any indication, it is inevitable because their parents are all friends with each other, and have been since the kids were little. "I feel so lucky because most people our age only have one or two friends from high school and we have a whole group!" said Shay. "We have all been at bad places in our life but right now we are all at pretty good places and it's a great feeling. I'm finally at a point where I'm happy and content with where I'm at; I wouldn't change a thing."

Up Close:

Best friends forever - what the girls have learned about friendship after 20 years of experience:

The greatest lesson I've learned is that it's not how much time you spend with people or how often you see them that makes friendships, it's knowing they will be there when you need them.

I've made plenty of new friends in the last 20 years, but I chose to come home because there is nothing like the comfort and history you have with old friends.

You can't replace 20 years of experience with someone. There's something about knowing what someone's thinking or why she is reacting a certain way without having to ask.

When I was in high school my friends were my world and others' perceptions of me made me who I was. As I grew up I realized you have to become your own person and get to know yourself. Friendships are stronger when you can be yourself.