When I was taking Writing 101, there were some assignments that were supposed to be part of a series. I finished the first two but never did get to write the third one. The theme for it has been in my head for a while. Though not exactly fulfilling the original assignment, this third part relates to each of the previous two and ties them together because of lessons I learned in both situations. They were lessons I learned because of my own selfishness and insensitivity; in each case, I lost a valuable friend.
In the first blog, I wrote about getting a haircut and losing my trust in my sister. It had happened in a place called Muldavinville, where I spent most of the summers of my childhood. Muldavinville was an idyllic place for children, a safe environment with plenty of room to explore, play, imagine, and just run around. Because many of the families came back year after year, during my 10 summers there I had good friends that I looked forward to being with for July and August. One of my best friends was named Wendy. She had two teen-aged sisters – much older than we – and a baby sister. I loved to eat at her house, because her sisters would cut up our meat for us in tiny bites and call us “Lamb Chop.” It was fun to be there. It was also fun to run wild together outside. My memory has so many gaps, but I do remember playing pioneer in a miniature realistic log cabin belonging to a neighbor. I remember going down to the lake to swim and play in the sand, while our mothers chatted or played Scrabble. When we children realized it was getting late in the afternoon, we would cover ourselves in mud so that we’d have to go back in the lake one more time to wash off.
Wendy was a year or two younger than I was, but we were on the same wavelength…..until I got to be around 10 or 11. That was when I started showing the first inclinations toward growing up. I shouldn’t have been surprised when my two youngest daughters leapt almost overnight from unconcernedly playing with stuffed animals to caring how they looked and dressed; I did the same thing. The difference was that my daughters made the leap together, while I chose to leave my friend Wendy behind.
I remember the catalyst clearly. Wendy and I and some other kids were playing a twirling game; two of us would hold hands and twirl around together and then let go. The problem was that when we let go, Wendy fell and badly broke her arm. It was horrifying, not just because of what had happened – the arm at an odd angle, Wendy crying. all of us looking on in shock – but because I somehow felt responsible. My solution, when Wendy came back the next day with her arm in a cast, was to avoid her and to hang out with the older kids. I didn’t want to play kid games any more. She was hurt and didn’t understand. I remember her father and sisters talking to me about it, but I don’t think it made a difference in my behavior; I had moved on.
In the second blog of the series, I talked about finding my voice in a college class and of a friend who was instrumental in helping me to do so. This friend, Susan, was very independent. She lived in her own apartment, had a job and a boyfriend, and was always supportive of me. One day, however, she sat me down and talked to me about friendship. She told me that friendship had to go both ways, that friends needed to listen to each other and support each other, and that I had always been so wrapped up in myself and my own issues that I’d never asked her about hers. I had assumed that because she seemed so together on the outside that all was well on the inside. I had not gone beyond finding my own voice to learning to listen deeply and caringly to another’s. Susan broke off our friendship because she was tired of being the one who poured herself into it while I just received what she gave and didn’t reciprocate. She moved on.
I am blessed today with many good friends, from all times and places of my journeying through life. I think I have learned to be a good friend as well, and the hard lessons I learned from my failures with Wendy and Susan have helped me. Yet I still wish that somehow, some day, I could communicate with each of them again, ask about their lives and families, reminisce about the good times, and finally say to Wendy and to Susan what I have been wanting to say for these many years: “I am sorry I was not there when you needed me and that I didn’t offer comfort when you were hurting. I am sorry that I failed you as a friend and let you go out of my life, when you had already enriched it so much. I am sorry for the years of friendship that we have missed because of my selfishness. I am really and truly sorry for being such a jerk. Please forgive me.”