Recently I re-connected with an old friend with whom I had lost touch. It was at my daughter’s funeral, and so I was already very emotional. Seeing her light up when she saw me there and our subsequent conversation was a true blessing. A few weeks later she wrote me a letter, and I wrote one back. We are reclaiming our friendship, which is worth reclaiming!
We first met around 1979 when our husbands were just starting out as rural police officers. We both had babies the same age: mine, twin girls, and hers a daughter. We were both shy, new to the area and shared a lot of common interests. We were both artistic in different ways: she a gifted artist, and me a writer and lover of all aspects of art. Soon, we were talking and visiting nearly every day. We both had two more sons around the same age and daughters at the caboose. Of course the children all became fast friends.
We had a blast together. My friend (I’ll call her Elle to protect her privacy) has a wit as sharp and precise as the beautiful bone structure of her face. I tended to be more the silly blonde. We were a good fit. We could both talk fast and furious and had many a great conversation! We loved and supported each other in pretty much every way. Since small town police officers are almost always working on major holidays and town events, we attended them together. We spent lots of time sewing at each other’s homes…clothes for our kids and shirts for our husbands. And clothes for ourselves. And lots of craft projects.
Often we’d be in my living room with kids and toys all over the place making the craft of the day. She was so good at it and she tolerated my meager abilities.
She had mad skills as a tole painter. She made the most amazing rocking horse I have ever seen, and gave me one that I have since passed down to my daughter. I still have an oval plaque with two hands clasped that says “Welcome Friends” hanging above my door. It’s beautiful, and a constant reminder of her.
We took our children to the park, and the drive-in movie. We attended their ball games and school programs. We made bi-monthly trips to a discount grocery store 90 minutes away in our respective rattle trap vehicles, hers a jeep, mine a Toyota something or other. It was our girls day out, and we relished it! We sat by each other at church, and everywhere else we ended up being at the same time. We watched each other’s children, and heard each other’s deepest dreams. We were there for each other through thick and thin…and there seemed to be a lot of “thin”. We were young with financial challenges, emotional upheaval and just the general challenges of being mothers to a lot of tiny people. And there were some really big…things (too private to mention) that we helped each other through as well. Our bond grew deeper and closer. We met each others’ extended families, and she was another sister to me. I. Loved. Her.
And then, on Christmas Eve 1994, my husband left me for someone else. She was the first person I told, besides my parents. I was devastated. She comforted and supported me, and then for some reason I don’t think either of us truly understand, gradually we began to drift apart. While it hurt my heart for a while, I think I understood it. It happened to me over and over again during that time. I lived in my ex-husband’s town of origin. The people we knew were either related to him, dated him, played sports with him, worked with him or served in the church with him. I was a transplant. When there were choices to be made, he was theirs. There were some people who just plain didn’t know what to say, and some who felt threatened as they faced my situation. It made it seem more possible that it could happen to them and they didn’t want to look at that head on. Sometimes I dealt with the upheaval in my life with a healthy dollop of crazy. That scared people. And then later, I was a not-too-unattractive single woman. That didn’t make women very comfortable with me.
All in all, most of the people I felt the closest to, over the 17 years I lived there, faded away. (A few stalwarts remained, and over the years I have reconnected to a few more.) But the loss of Elle pained me the most. And yet, it was the very lack of everyone. Everyone. Including her...that forced me to my knees and the realization that the Savior was my closest friend. I’m not sure I could have known that as powerfully or deeply had anyone else remained. Maybe, but either way? I forgive her. I forgave her a long time ago. She was too beautiful to hold a grudge against.
Over the years our paths crossed once in a while at weddings or events that drew me back to the small town I, early on, had to move away from. I thought of her often. Missed her. Kept tabs on her kids via Facebook. We even reached out to each other a couple of times, but the time wasn’t right I guess.
This time is perfectly right, and beautiful. I LOVE that it began with letters. As a writer, I cherish that form of communication. We are catching up, getting to know each other again, and it is a blessed thing. Today she sent me a letter with a crocheted bookmark. It made me cry. She is among the women I have loved best in my life, and I’m so glad to have her back!
And to know that once again…she has mine!