“Thanks for being the best best friend an 8-year-old could wish for.”
It was a Facebook message from my childhood best friend Lindsey. We haven’t seen each other in nearly a decade, but she had found an old collection of postcards she’d written and never sent to me. We caught up quickly and reminisced over how bad our handwriting was. Maybe it still is a little rough around the edges.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about growing up.
The time I crashed my tricycle down the stairs of the porch in my parents’ backyard.
Learning to shoot free-throws just a few feet from there after school on the hoop I begged my parents for.
Exploring the neighborhood with my friends, trying not to get thorns from the blackberry bushes in our ankles.
And it makes me pause because every one of those memories happened with specific people. They were my ride-or-dies, my confidants and fellow adventurers. And it hits me that we’ve lost touch and barely talk anymore and a part of me mourns a little bit.
It’s not like we ever had a talk like, “Well. This is goodbye.” and agreed things were over between us. No, we just grew apart the way that most of our relationships grow apart. Time and interests and moves and jobs and college all got between us and now I’m left with all these memories.
It feels like running ahead a bit and then turning around to see that you’ve lost them. Or when you talk on your cell phone and they lose signal and suddenly you pause and say, “…hello?”
So this one’s for the people who meant a great deal to me. This is my way of honoring them. And of course this isn’t everyone, but as I reflect on what it means to be (almost) 28, it feels wildly unfair to not take the time to write this post. These are a few of the random memories that seem to surface more than others.
Here’s to Greg, Eric, Tommy and Sebastian (whom we called ‘Sebi’.) They were the boys of the neighborhood and we spent a lot of evenings together on bikes or running through our yards. They were the first people that made it feel okay to be a little tom-boyish and daring. We made up stories and fought dragons and played a LOT of video games and I owe a lot of my love for Nintendo to those goons.
Here’s to Blake, the first boy I really liked. We would Instant Message through MSN Messenger and made up codes for when parents were in the room, even though we really didn’t talk about anything but the Anaheim Angels. He taught me that sometimes feelings are scary, but sometimes you’re met with someone crushing on you, too and it’s exciting and special.
Here’s to Nicole who would run the dreaded mile with me. We spent the whole time complaining about how much we hated the mile. It was junior high and some kids got special colored shorts for being more athletic but we never did and we DID NOT CARE BECAUSE RUNNING A MILE WAS THE ABSOLUTE WORST.
Here’s to Andrea who wanted to start a band with me and Mira and Erica and how we played on the swingset and you were brave enough to jump off and I wasn’t. I bought a Hit Clip of an N*SYNC song and brought it to your house and we saw Tarzan together which made us run around your room because we were basically now Tarzan.
Here’s to Kelsey and Bryce and Colleen who wouldn’t judge me when I was always late to neighborhood carpool. I always was showing up at the last second and I’m sure, looking back, that I was a terrible person for it, but there were some things going on at home that I never talked about and they were really kind to me when I didn’t deserve it. I’m sure we all laugh now at me running down the driveway, but I also believe it was a gift to be welcomed with very little condemnation.
Here’s to Katherine and her old Buick–or maybe it was an Oldsmobile. We would find the toughest dirt roads in our small town and go ‘potholing.’ We’d hit our heads on the ceiling of the car as we basically were off-roading in a car that was certainly not designed for it. One time, we were almost sideways and had to climb to the other side of the car to distribute the weight so we wouldn’t flip. It’s fine.
Here’s to Amy and Jon and Josh and Joelle who were Jr. High Leaders with me, even though I was young. They let me hang out with them sometimes outside of Youth Group and they really didn’t have to, but it makes me want to invite others in and invest in the person a bit behind me in the journey.
Here’s to my teachers who taught me to write (Ms. Duncan-Rice and Mr. West and Professor Hecht and Dr. DeRosset) and told me that I would one day write a book. Who knows if that’s true, but you always believed it was.
Here’s to road trip memories with Emily and Kylie and Lizi and Matt and Simone and Jim and Anna and David and all the places we went. The redwoods and San Fransisco and Portland and Seattle and the Midwest and Indiana and Niagara Falls and Canada and Pennsylvania (which lasts forever.) We ate a lot of junk food and our metabolism was so much better then and I’d also like to say HERE’S TO THAT QUICK METABOLISM OF MY EARLY 20’S. RIP.
Here’s to college study sessions with Isabel and Carissa and Sarah and April and Tiffany and Alysha and Jamie and Kelsey and Audrey and all those girls on the tenth floor. The ones I sang with on the roof over downtown Chicago. The ones who dressed up for dessert and went to the beach to play volleyball (even though none of us were good at that) and snuck onto the roof of the Drake Hotel where Obama stayed when he came though the Windy City.
Here’s to Ashton who took me home with her for Christmas in Virginia. And Rachel who let me hang with her family in the days before that. To the Lothrop house and the places I fell in love with my seminary boyfriend and the people who rebuilt me when it didn’t work out.
Here’s to late night dance parties and shouting the lyrics to every song on the 1989 album by Taylor Swift while we looked for an open McDonalds. To running around in a Casino in Connecticut after we went to a random Salt N Pepa concert. To sleepy eyes at the gas station, grabbing snacks to keep us awake on the car ride back to Massachusetts.
This is the part where I cry.
Where things in my heart and my head are loud and exciting and young and wild and free and I’m smiling so big as I remember all these random moments. And suddenly, I pause and turn around and none of you are here.
And they say that people grow apart. Sometimes it feels like you were all the best thing to happen to me for those moments I needed you. I needed a companion to complain with walking around that dirt track. I needed an older crew to show me the ropes. I needed a family to be with when mine was on the other coast. I needed to sing lyrics about being young and single. I needed a ride back to Boston after wedding a thousand miles away.
Every one of you answered the call. You walked, you drove, you wrote notes, you sent texts, you listened and you introduced me to music.
And it sounds funny because I’m a grown adult living in Nashville (can you believe that?) and on a Monday night all I can think about is you. And how you slipped between the cracks. And how I never got the chance to thank you properly.
So, if you’re reading this, I want to take a moment to tell you this:
I remember. I remember how it felt to be with you and I was carrying some dark, heavy stuff, but you were there for me without knowing I needed it. I moved away to Chicago and then Boston and then Austin and now Nashville and it feels like we’re a million miles from those days. I got a job writing, which feels insane and like someone put a toddler in control who approved that idea, but I love it.
I hope that you’re doing really well. I hope that you know what you meant to me and you may never actually know, but this is better than nothing, I suppose.
I hope you fell in love and took some risks and I hope you got to see some snow and lightning bugs and the Atlantic Ocean and your favorite band. I hope that you have felt a bit lost and then found again. I hope that you are reading this from a home that is good and safe and honest.
I’m sorry for the times you felt alone and afraid. I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you got terrible news or found yourself heartbroken. I hope that you were put back together by people who loved you into a stronger place.
A lot of the time, it seems you fell between the cracks, but then I realize you never did. Because you’re still in my mind when I run a mile or drive over a pothole precariously or play Zelda or sing to Taylor Swift.
We might not all be on the same page and we probably would disagree about a few things if we had to fill out a questionnaire of our political and societal beliefs. But those things never stopped you from loving me well and letting me in. It was a gift, it was never forgotten and it has made all the difference.
God has been kind to me a number of times in my life and on dark days when things feel unsteady and uncertain, sometimes you pop into my head and I am undone. God was so thoughtful to give me you.
I could never Him enough, even if I had another hundred years to write it all down.