I'm at that age where most of my older memories of the past have that fuzzy quality to them. The finer details remain unfocused, stolen over time. Scenes and images flash by in a blur, the memories fluid. Some I wish I could just grasp in my hands and hold tight, allowing the chance to reminisce a bit, but they slip through like sand. Others I would love to banish from my mind forever, no amount of "lesson-learned" a lure enough to keep them.
As each year slides by, these fleeting memories, these grains of sand begin to compound and compress, building on one another. The weight of the recent pushing down on the past, like layers of bedrock. Erosion stealing some moments away for good.
However, tucked away here and there are a few rare gems that no amount of time can truly unravel. Those memories beat vibrantly inside my heart, echoing the feelings that created them, remaining untouched.
And my coming-of-age story is one of those gems, or at least a small cluster of them as it was a series of events and pieces falling into place that led to finding one of the things I needed the most back then. Something that inherently shaped me into the woman I am today.
I was an only child in all the ways that counted for the first ten years of my life. After that, divorce and remarriage gave me siblings and extended family but only as a technicality. It didn't matter that my family practically doubled in size, I never really felt like a priority to any of them. No real sense of belonging. Instead, I felt endlessly alone.
Unfortunately, the apartment building I lived in during my elementary school years lacked any peers my age, so most days I had to go looking for one. This was a time when the only way to get in touch with friends was by calling them on the phone, knocking on doors or just wandering around the neighborhood until someone turned up.
If you've never had the experience, it's quite a daunting thing to stand on someone's doorstep waiting for an invitation or rejection. It's a crushing thing when the answer is "not today." When you're not the first pick of a friend to have over. When you end up all by yourself again.
It didn't help that every few years I ended up moving and changing schools, having to start all over. It made it impossible to have a friend that I knew from Kindergarten or a home I'd grown up in, a place I had roots.
And undoubtably wherever I moved, the friend groups were already set. Sure I got along with everyone on the whole, but I had a hard time finding more than a handful that cared to get to know me. And I desperately wanted someone to know me. To know all my quirks and all my crazy and still choose me.
The final move during my adolescence happened just before my sophomore year in high school. I left behind a handful of friends that I tried to stay in touch with, but time and distance made that almost impossible. So I started off at another school on my own again.
I don't remember my first day there or what I was wearing. I don't remember what I had for lunch. I don't even remember the first time I met two of the people that would become some of the most important to me. What I do remember is recognizing almost right away that they were special.
In no time, they quickly became my best friends, my tribe, my family, my home. We were silly together, crazy and wild. We laughed until we cried. We cried until we laughed. We were sad and heartbroken over boys. We learned to drive, went to school dances and youth group, played sports and even worked together. We kept each other in check (or at least tried), and we encouraged one another. We messed up. We argued. And we learned about forgiveness.
Their friendship became my saving grace. They patched up that gaping hole of loneliness I carried with me, one kindness at a time. I honestly don't know where I would have ended up if I hadn't met them. If I never would have moved that year.
What I felt then and still feel today are so many memories of acceptance, love, kindness and joy. My heart feels full when I think of those last three years of school. And the beauty of our friendship is that it's endured.
After high school, our paths took us in different directions for awhile, but we stayed in touch. I ended up being in both of their weddings, and they were in mine. We've raised kids together. We've lived and worked together. We've shared life.
Thirty years have passed since we first met. Some memories of our time together are now fuzzy or lost, but my heart recalls in perfect clarity that those two people gave me exactly what I needed then and now–the beautiful gift of true friendship.
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