Relationships Can be Like the Tides of Life

I was thinking about the topic of break up stories, and it occurred to me that there is a similar phenomena among friends. It doesn't have to be a romantic relationship to end abruptly, or to cause pain and angst. Several times in my life, people who have been extremely close friends have left my life under various circumstances, but that doesn't make the loss any less. In some cases, I am still scratching my head, years later, trying to fathom what exactly went wrong. In other instances, outside influences, beyond my control, created a wedge that resulted in a chasm, and that chasm couldn't be breached. And finally, there are simply times when we grow apart from one another, with our lives taking very different paths. No one is at fault, and no one has been hurtful. The binding for that relationship has lost importance and power, because we all evolve and grow into different roles over time.

My first BFF in the whole wide world was as different from me as the day is from night. We were thrown together as toddlers in Sunday school, shared the same kindergarten and grade school experience, and even attended the same high school, sharing many classes along the way. We sang in choir together, acted in plays, visited one another's house, but yet, our essential differences caused the friendship to simply fade away. She was extremely meticulous. My mother begged me to be more like her, always tidy, neat, clean, and very ladylike. I was the ultimate tomboy, and one of the top plotters of mischief and pranks. My mother abandoned buying me tights, as they seldom lasted more than one day, and she rejoiced that pants were allowed for girls as they could be patched. BFF was petite, where I was one of the biggest kids in class. She was incredibly artistic, gifted in fact, and I was still making stick figures right up through middle school, and relied heavily on tracing paper for my art to resemble anything recognizable. Intellectually, we were equals, and shared a very offbeat and, sometimes inappropriate, sense of humor. I tend to think that my hijinks and pranks became her vicarious method for acting out without any real risk. She could gently smile and politely giggle, but at no point in time was she in danger of getting into any real trouble.

As we became older, she became more introverted, more swept up in her artwork. Her abilities were phenomenal, and she was often content to sketch while the rest of us ran like lunatics on the playground. Gym class was torture for her, with the possible exception of the dance sections. When you don't like to be dirty and you don't like to sweat, there is nothing that is truly appealing about basketball, volleyball, dodge ball, kick ball, or soccer. If you threw any object in her direction, she would flinch rather than try to catch it. Sometimes, I wondered if she was intentionally that poor in order to be chosen last and eliminated first. I still really enjoyed her company, as she was one of the few people who could read and talk intelligently, but by junior high, with the added drama of boys noticing girls and girls noticing boys, we seemed to have less and less in common. Adolescent crushes seemed to have passed her completely. No posters and teen magazines caught her attention or inspired her fantasies.

Like most junior high girls, I obsessed about my weight, and worried about miniscule blemishes. She was always rail thin and delicate. I don't know that she ever looked in a mirror long enough to note if she had a pimple or not. She didn't seem to have the same "end of the world" viewpoint of braces, and was probably the only person that I ever knew who didn't have to be reminded to use the special rubber bands. I don't think she ever understood why it was important to look like Daisy Duke or Farah Fawcett.

During this same time, she really took to the role of starving artist in the garret. Her clothing choices were almost counter culture, with her hair (which was really the envy of many of the girls-naturally blond, long, thick) was always tightly contained with scrunchies, scarves, or braided and wound into a bun. While we were fighting our parents on the makeup issue, using allowance to secretly buy the contraband eye shadows at the corner drug store, she was buying pastels and charcoal for her artwork. It never occurred to her that her face could be considered a canvas to paint and decorate. While the rest of us were plaguing the folks for contact lenses, she was content to wear her granny glasses, a definite throwback to the sixties.

High school came, and the gap became wider. We were thrown together into shared English classes because we had both scored highly on the placement tests. But high school offered her the outlet for her art, a chance to really explore all the various forms and expand on her abilities. I know that she participated in the theater department, but rather than acting or singing, BFF was involved in set creation, costuming, and yes, she finally discovered makeup, but not for herself. I always found the theater crowd a bit too over the top, and always wondered how you gauged the sincerity of somebody who was always pretending to be somebody else. Those concerns never entered her head.

I guess from her perspective, I was the true "wild child". I loved anything that resulted in a sense of adventure, and truth be told, I am amazed that my passion for excitement didn't lead me into some real trouble. On the other hand, my friend's personality fit the granny glasses that she wore. Her idea of a great time was going to the church youth bible study. Don't get me wrong, we both were confirmed together and attended church regularly, but I will openly admit that my primary goals in going to youth group had very little to do with additional devotion and Bible study. It was a "parent acceptable" social outlet, in other words a sanctioned chance to hang with boys before dating was permitted. Bible study and devotions were the ticket to trips to the roller rink and Great America with friends. My friend didn't go on many of these outings, and if she did, BFF often sat on the sidelines with a sketch pad while the rest of us bowled or skated the night away. But she was still my friend, and was smart enough to appreciate my jokes, along with my scathingly brilliant plots and escapades.

High school graduation truly sent us in different directions. BFF went to a prestigious art school, on scholarship, somewhere in the hinterlands of Minnesota or northern Wisconsin. The school was phenomenally well regarded, but very small and very rural and may have even had a religious affiliation (I don't recall for sure) BFF excelled in her studies as she always had, but the effort to remain in touch became strained. I could send her pages and pages of my adventures in the ghetto while attending college, and quite frankly, her responses would take less than a page. Other than her complete immersion in the art that she loved, there simply wasn't much else to report. Such a small school environment seemed to feed her natural inclination to be introverted, and of course, I wasn't there to poke, prod, jostle, joke, and generally annoy her into doing things that she would ordinarily avoid, if she even noticed them at all.

Following college graduation, we both found ourselves back in the family homesteads for a short time. She, because she was involved in graduate studies at the Art Institute, as well as being actively employed in her field. I was home because my mother had unexpectedly been taken ill, and needed to have somebody to do the heavy lifting, toting, and fetching while she recuperated. We met a few times for coffee. I was more than happy to share my more exuberant friends, but she was very reticent to join in fully. Even though we were legal adults, going out for wine or a beer was simply not in her lexicon. She admitted, at one point, during one of our coffee breaks, that she had actually met a very nice young man at the art college in the wilderness, but that she feared the relationship wouldn't survive being separated by such a great distance after graduation. Having never met her beau, I really had no frame of reference, and could only make the typical sympathetic nods of understanding. I, on the other hand, was already engaged and planning the wedding. I was once again moving into an area that was beyond her experiences.

She attended my wedding and genuinely wished us well. Ironically, her parents, concerned about her mooning over the lost beau from college days, persuaded her to sign up for a Christian singles dating service online. Her first match, out of the box.........the guy who she dated in college, who had moved to the Chicago area to try to establish here and drum up the courage to contact her again. As these things go, I would like to believe that they are happily starving together in a garret built for two, or three or more.....but I truly have no idea, which is a real shame. I know that I could probably hunt them up using social media, but after all these years, it seems somewhat cold and calculating. Just not comfortable with popping up out of nowhere and trying to resume a relationship as if literally a couple decades haven't passed. That might be more my issue than hers, considering that we have lost contact for more years than we were friends, perhaps I am simply not sure of my reception as the prodigal friend either.


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  • What a heart-felt story, and so common to so many. Due to social media I have had a few people from way back contact me, and after a few messages on "what's up", it dies out, as maybe it should.

    What's that old saying? People enter your life for a "reason" or a "season" and sometimes for "life". Often, we lose track of that person and we have to wonder why and almost always let it go.

    An excellent story about one of those people. Maybe your BFF is a blogger on the highway of life, and will read this. Who knows? And, then...what if she does?


  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    Thinking about the BFF, I was further amazed to discover that she was all about the Beatles while I was all about Mick Jagger and the Stones. I was a junk food junkie, while she was one of the few kids that I knew who was a vegetarian by choice. Remember those lunches vividly....I was eating Fritos and Ding Dongs, while she was eating a vegetable tray of carrots, green peppers, celery, all topped off with orange sections or apple slices. Her desk was always neat, and her locker mirrored the desk in high school. Opening my locker was hazardous, and even I avoided it if I could. Amazes me now that we were friends for as long as we were. Often wonder if she has family and if her kids are as meticulous as she, or whether God graced her with somebody more like me....Anyway, thanks for the feedback.

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