A while back, I wrote about a girl, my best friend, who faded from my life. I wrote about how disappointed I was that nearly two decades of friendship (we met 20 years ago this September) had melted away. My best efforts at keeping my friends close had failed. Despite it all, I have tried really hard to remain present, available, aware. I understand how, when confronted with something new or scary or uncertain, it brings comfort to talk to an old friend. Someone who “knew me when” and with whom no backstory is necessary.
But I also understand that as time goes by, those friends change. Many of my friends who “knew me when” are friends from high school. The farther we go from common ground, the more gaps there are in shared experiences, the less truly old friends come to think about or rely on one another. We find other friends, newer-but-still-old friends, with whom we do not have to explain what is currently amiss or exciting in our current lives because they probably already know.
The girl I mentioned at the beginning of this post got engaged a couple days ago. I found out via Facebook today. Despite the fact that we haven’t really spoken in years, we recently got back in touch when I wished her a happy birthday via text (this is what the world has come to, right?). She told me she was enjoying living in her new city and excited about an upcoming vacation, which just ended.
To say I was disappointed to find out about her engagement via Facebook, with the masses rather than through personal means, is inaccurate. I was shocked. Then I felt really sad.
And then I put myself in her shoes.
When I consider the people who are closest to me now, is she on my list? No. Would I go out of my way to let her know of a major change in my life before posting it on social media? No. Would I, when the hype was over, give her a call? I would, and I would because I value people in my life who “knew me when,” regardless of how long ago that was.
Then I started to think about what I would want from an old friend if I were to share such exciting news about my own life. I’d want acknowledgement – I’d want to know that friends were thinking of me and feeling happy for me. So, in the spirit of “do unto others,” a mantra that I chant in my head dozens of times a day, I sent her a congratulatory text message.
Call me hopeless, foolish, or sentimental, but I wasn’t satisfied. Overtly doing more seemed inappropriate, and I’m 99% sure she doesn’t read this blog, so this is where I will say the rest of what I want to say to this very old friend.
First of all, congratulations! Now and always, I wish you the greatest happiness in the world. I know how you’ve battled to be where you are, who you are, and what you are and I am proud of you. You both deserve the world
It makes me laugh to congratulate you on your engagement because it doesn’t seem like that long ago when we were gossiping about pimply boys, taking teen magazine quizzes, and trying to decide what we wanted to be when we grew up.
Do you remember how we used to sing Les Mis songs on the bus in elementary school? Do you remember when you first got your pink glasses and made me close my eyes until you put them on to show me?
Do you remember how I used to come over and clean spiders out of your basement before sleepovers? Do you remember taking me to meet your elementary school friends before we started middle school (separately, in the end)?
Do you remember how you cried when you called to tell me you were moving away? Do you remember how I cried? Do you remember when I called you before anyone else to tell you my parents were splitting up?
Do you remember playing on the same rec soccer team for a few summers and spending most of our time picking flowers instead of watching the ball?
Do you remember teaching me not to be afraid of your dog? Do you remember laughing hysterically when I told you we were getting a dog? I laughed, too.
Do you remember never letting a birthday pass without exchange a card, gift, and phone call? Do you remember the photo album you made me one year? I found it during one of my moves – it brought tears to my eyes.
Do you remember how we used to plot to get my sister and your brother together so that we could be sisters? Do you remember how we used to call each other sisters?
Do you remember the countless plays we put on and how we always managed to make ourselves the stars? We thought we were so sneaky, too.
Do you remember calling to tell me that a boy you really liked had asked you to junior prom? Can you believe that you are now engaged to that boy, who has grown into a man?
Do you remember all of our phone calls before leaving on vacations and once we’d returned? Talk minutes, especially long distance, were precious in the days of landlines and then borrowing our parents’ cell phones. Do you remember the postcards we’d send and gifts we’d buy for each other whenever we went away? I bought you a lot of snow globes and I still wear a pair of earrings you picked up for me once.
Do you remember when I took the train to visit you a few times in high school? Do you remember coming to visit me in college? Do you remember the road trip we always planned and never managed to take?
Do you remember how we devoured historical fiction, played with your Magic Attic or my American Girl dolls, and wished we could go back in time? Do you remember when we used to write historical fiction and other stories and send them back and forth via email for constructive criticism and editing?
Do you remember how you called me “Prince Watermelon” when I wore pink and green rubber bands in my braces? Do you remember how you used to tell me your hair was wavy? Do you remember when my hair actually used to be wavy?
Do you remember calling me once in high school, crying after a fight with your parents, and the first words you said were, “Tell me it’s going to be okay. I just need to hear that it’s going to be okay”? I don’t remember what was wrong, but I know that it was okay. Do you remember the hours we spent on the phone when I broke off a relationship? Do you remember how gentle you were when I asked how yours was going?
Do you remember when we used to write letters when you were away at camp? We used to sign off with “BFF, LYLAS”. Getting a letter from you was often the highlight of my day.
Whenever I’m asked, on a bank form or something else requiring security questions, “What is the name of your childhood best friend?” I put your name.
To you, my childhood best friend, I wish love and happiness and peace. I wish you a wonderful, exciting time full of wonderful, exciting things. I wish you friends and family and joy. If you ever need me, I’ll be there.