In elementary school I had fights with my friends but there were happy endings with skipping home from school together once again. I had an older brother and was somewhat of a tomboy, fancying myself as kind of tough, so this probably happened on a regular basis just so I could keep in shape for kickball.
High school brought the added drama of hormones to the playground and discrepancies usually revolved around boys. At the ninth grade dance my so-called friend’s so-called boyfriend persuaded me to tell him that so-called had in fact been “cheating” on him, promising never to tell her what I said and then proceeding to march right on over and create a big scene which somehow ended with the two of them happily making out to the teenage equivalent of make-up sex – an hour of rotating to Stairway to Heaven. And while their lips slowly chapped my own so-called date marched home to the tune of their lies about me ringing in his ears, closely followed by yours truly. A brilliant retreat except that I was staying at so-called’s house for the night, the unhappy details of which I have happily forgotten by process of selective brain cell loss. (Now that is an interesting concept coming as it is on the aching heels of a deadly drinking/disco combination at Super Wendy’s birthday bash the other night. Would that we could target the brain cells we’d like to lose.)
What I do recall about the ninth grade dance besides one more polyester dress with matching blue eyeshadow plus a bad experience with so-called’s sunlamp which has cost me a lot of money forever-after in the form of expensive sunglasses to protect my once-burned retinas (actually, that came later in preparation for the Starlight Ball or some other gropefest which must mean that even that friendship was rekindled, ah, yes, it must have been because she later became my brother’s girlfriend which once inspired him to punch the wall and break his hand. So really we all should have kept our distance.) But I do still wonder to this day what they told my retreating date to make him leave me standing at the ninth grade equivalent of the altar but was too embarrassedly mortified to ever ask him. Surely, it can’t have been very flattering. So MM, wherever you are, you should know that whatever they said, I didn’t do it. I was a virgin in every sense but especially in the ways of mean girls and their so-called boyfriends.
On beyond high school the friends I lost were usually of the opposite sex. Boys morphed from friends into lovers and girlfriends were more or less what I did in between. So I lost the menfolk in one way or another also. Sometimes that was mutual and sometimes as dramatic as losing them to their own awakening sexuality or to death - which was certainly neither voluntary nor a resignation. I lost the good graces of their families and sometimes our mutual friends as well depending on the severity of devastated dreams.
But here I am midstream in life and I am reminded of the song we sang as wee Brownies while toasting marshmallows around the campfire: “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.” We sang it in rounds. Over and over. Until the fading echoes of the final verse tickled the stars above and we all shivered from the beauty of our high young voices and from too much sugar. Maybe it was the s’mores, but somehow those words stuck with me. I don’t discard friends. I am the one sending hundreds of smiling greetings to all holiday corners of the globe each year. I have moved around a lot, as you might surmise from the title of this blog, and I drag my friends along with me, ready or not. I love to laugh and to make new friends and the writer in me loves to listen to other people’s stories. I have friends I see daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally, and annually. I have friends I never see and rarely if ever hear from but still I wonder about them at 4 a.m., hold them in my heart and hope they will darken my doorstep again some day. Some of you might agree that I am a good friend to have; some of you might be reading this with a sneer on your lips. Thanks to the world-wide-web I have no idea who reads this but I am smiling at you all as I type.
I may have lost friends along the way, even as recent as recently, but the deliberateness of this particular incident is what is new. No guesswork about, “I resign as your friend.” Can you do that? What if I don’t reciprocate? My friendship is not a commodity, after all. There are no returns nor refunds. It is given freely, like the sunset. You may forget about it or choose not to look but it is there, sinking into the sea with a glowing smile every evening all the same. And it goes on and on and on.
As a supposedly mature adult whose life is more than half over, what is my response to this? Enter serenity prayer stage left please and endow me with the wisdom to know the difference, por favor. Enter Maya Angelou stage right and remind me once again that if I don’t like something, change it, if I can’t change it, change the way I think about it. Enter that hokey song and know when to walk away or when to run. I certainly won’t beat her up on the playground. I could spread rumors like in high school, but never mastered the art of subterfuge. So I guess that leaves accepting her decision with grace and humility, moving along and wondering when I might run into her in the marshmallow aisle at Auto Mercado.
My response so far? “Wow.” I know, a simple yet profound palindrome. So, strike up the fire and unwrap the Hershey bars. It’s time to add a new verse and sing along. “Make new friends, but keep the old, if they unfriend you, that’s pretty cold. Or welcome to the fold. Or send them some mold.” I’ll have the s’mores ready in case she wanders by at sunset. An open invitation.