09 August 2013

Do Friendships Endure?

Today I had lunch with a good friend whom I hadn't seen in years, even though we both live in the same town. Life took us in different directions, but now I think is the time for us to come together again. This, and the fact that my best friend for the past few years is moving away has gotten me thinking a lot about friendship, making friends, renewing old friendships, keeping friendships, and loss.

I have lost a lot of friends in my life, but the converse is also true. I have made a lot of friends.

From the time I was six, my family went through so many changes that I was moving from town to town, school to school, almost every year.

I first remember making friends in second grade, when I lived in Boulder, Colorado, with my grandmother. I went to Flatirons Elementary, and my friends were Cory and Cory. Funny, but true. At one Cory's house, we enjoyed baking and Brownies (the young-girl's version of Girl Scouts) activities. At the other Cory's house, we'd "play Barbie's" on the steps and chitter chatter as girls do.

But then it was time to move. The first half of third grade, I lived in Whittier, California, with my mom and dad. My friends were Mary Ann (from Cuba — her name was pronounced "Ma-di-ayn"  and we taught each other our languages) and a couple of other kids whose names I don't remember. I had a crush on a boy named David.

But then it was time to move. I began the second half of third grade in Cupertino, California. I don't remember any friends for the second half of third grade, but by fourth grade, I was making loads of friends again. Friends at this school included a boy from the UK who taught me how to play chess; Guy, the only black kid in our school (I think); Leonora, and Julie. Julie was my best, best friend. I went to her house to "play Barbie's" a lot, and I remember her mom was very nice to me. Her mom was Japanese, and she even made us a pretty lunch one day on trays with tea and rice. I never felt so special. I still really, really miss Julie.

But then it was time to move. At some point during third or fourth grade, my mother had decided to move out. Finally, my parents divorced for the second time, and eventually, my dad found someone else to marry. We moved to her place in San José, California, where I started fifth grade. I don't remember the name of my best friend there, but I remember how fun it was when folks mistook us for sisters.

But then it was time to move. I finished the second half of fifth grade in Eureka, California, where we lived with my dad and his wife. I made several friends, even my first "boyfriend," Conrad Cooper. Again, I don't remember any of the other kids' names, but along with my brothers and step-brothers, I remember quite a crowd of kids to hang out with.

But then it was time to move. I finished the second half of sixth grade in Sebastopol, California, while living with my mom. This is where I made several friends and a few enemies. Julie, Corissa, Tony, Cheryl, and I were a tight group. I had a crush on an Asian boy named Wendall. Enemies included a boy whose name I don't remember, but who lived near me and often tried to ambush me to beat me up. I got really good at getting home fast by different routes. Two girls were also "enemies": Marcella and Tina. Marcella once picked on Corissa so bad that I challenged her to a fight, saying if she wanted to pick on someone, she should pick on me. But I never showed up for the fight. Tina once cornered me with her brother and a friend of his, and slapped me in the face while they held my arms. To this day, I hate the names Tina and Marcella. I was at this school through 7th grade.

But then it was time to move. This time, we got a house with my mom's boyfriend in Walnut Creek, California. I went to eighth grade at Pleasant Hill Intermediate, and got involved with yearbook and journalism projects. Friends were two girls fresh from Vietnam whose names I don't remember, and then Debbie, Kelly, and Mary.

We all moved up to Pleasant Hill High School together. But then it was time to move.

Briefly, we lived in Novato, California, and in 9th grade at a junior high, I made one friend with whom I rode bikes and played pinball games (at the local A&W).

But then it was time to move. Luckily, we moved back to Walnut Creek, and I went back to Pleasant Hill High School. I was still friends with Kelly, but we grew apart, and I made new friends: Masako, Lisa, Seong Min, Joel, JoAnne, and Ana Maria Beltrán. Ana was an exchange student from Santiago, Chile, and we struck a very strong bond.

But then it was time to move again. This time, it was my choice. I would rather have stayed at Pleasant Hill High School and been a member of the final graduating class (the school closed in 1980), but my mother was planning to move to Escondido, California. Instead, I opted to move back with my grandmother in Boulder, Colorado, and did my senior year at Boulder High. Friends there were Amy, Janet, Petra, and a few other people with whom I shared a girl's counseling club (we were training to be peer counselors). I also had an acquaintance in my Spanish club, Patty Doherty, who would be my roommate my sophomore year of college (at CU-Boulder).

In college, I was lucky to have a scholarship and the money to live in the dorms. More friends followed. I am no longer in touch with any of them except Patty via Christmas cards and Diana (with whom I shared an apartment after college) through Christmas cards and Facebook. I have even reconnected with Ana via Facebook (she still lives in Santiago, Chile — which is on my must-visit list).

As an adult, friends have come and gone. Each time, it has been hard making friends and hard losing them. Now my best friend is moving away, and I'm feeling a lot of grief. But with that grief is opportunity — I can always fly to visit her after she moves. And now I have the time to reconnect with this old friend from my younger days here in Boulder.

Looking on the bright side, however, does not and should not negate the grief. Each friend lost adds to a list of losses — of people I still hold dear and miss each day. If there's a "moral" to this story, it's this: Friends never really leave you, even though they may leave a little hole in your heart when you are separated. And I should know.

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