A sweet thing happened recently in my blogging world.
My childhood best friend, Carol, suddenly appeared with a comment on my Neil Armstrong tribute post! What do you know!
(The tribute talked about Carol and me sleeping out in my parent’s backyard apple orchard in 1969. We looked up at the moon in amazement trying to imagine man walking up there on that mysterious white orb.)
Carol and I grew up together. She lived one street over and it only took three minutes if you ran through our neighbor’s back yard. We were both so shy. Afraid to talk in school, scared of our own shadows sometimes.
Big 6th grade boys pointed paper guns at us as we walked to kindergarten and we ran all the way back home, petrified of imminent death.
“Can I come over to your house?” we would ask. “Can I come over to your house today?”
We were inseparable through Brownies and 4-H and walking to the library and playing games and…well, you know how it is with best friends in elementary school.
I can remember attending a Girl Scout sleepover, huddled away in the corner, probably reassuring one another that we could make it through the night in spite of shyness, feeling a bit apart from the other girls who ran laughing and squealing around the cement-floored building.
In 6th grade we traveled together to junior high and wrapped the teacher around our little fingers and he let us do wild things like escape at lunchtime to walk leisurely home. We crossed the frozen Mill Creek and luxuriated with our tuna fish or bologna sandwiches before returning to school where we aced our classes easily.
Then arrived 7th grade. Carol, always the elder by six months, grew up faster than I. Suddenly she fit in with all the other students and found–gasp!–a boyfriend, whom she eventually married and, yes, they’re still married to prove junior high love stories can come true.
I felt abandoned and shyer than ever. Impossible to fit in with the smiling, laughing confident kids. Impossible to know what to say, what to do, how to make friends. I grew quieter, watching her grow more assured. I suddenly felt all alone.
It was not Carol’s fault. Nor was it mine. We were suddenly in different orbits, spinning toward our separate destinies.
It was a sad, quiet, painful year. I made friends with the shyest of shy students. Tried to figure out how to operate in this new impossible world.
Of course so many of us flounder as we approach adolescence. We must re-assess, grow up, learn a different set of rules. We learn to engage with our peers. We learn to navigate through teenage waters, how to gain confidence, how to steer into our personal selves.
It’s a learning time.
Slowly, as junior high–and then high school unfolded–I found a wider circle of friends. Christie and Pattijo and Karen and others. Eventually found a boyfriend for a year or so and began to grow up. That elusive confidence began to blossom at age fifteen. It was a tough few years, which fortunately didn’t leave too deep scars.
Carol and I never really regained the inseparable closeness of our elementary years. The Universe gave us different paths to walk, yet we’ve intermittently stayed in touch with that bright white moon shining over us.
Years later, oh so many years later, when Barry and I lived 500 miles north in the woods, I learned that Carol gave birth to her firstborn–a baby boy–within four hours of the birth of my firstborn.
It felt right, somehow.
We’ve visited a few times when I return to my hometown and a couple of years ago we meandered through the streets of Yale reminiscing and telling stories.
Fast-forward to now. Carol discovered my blog through the Universe , can you believe it? As some of you remember, I visited Bree in Mackinac Island last June. It turns out that one of Bree’s dedicated blog readers is Carol’s Uncle Paul. Uncle Paul must have clicked over to this blog–and alerted Carol that her childhood friend was yammering on a blog. So Carol drops in, my goodness, this is a small world, isn’t it?
Yesterday she commented: How many verses did we memorize for Mrs. Story? What poem did you recite at the program? I had a dream about you and the poem Abou Ben Adhem, strange…. Do you remember what I recited? When can I come over to your house? So many questions and I have many more!
Isn’t that sweet? OK, before wrapping up this long-ago memory, I have to tell you about Mrs. Story. Mrs. Story was our 3rd grade teacher. She made us memorize poem after poem after poem. (Mrs. Story was actually the main person responsible for kindling my love of writing, and hence blogging…)
Since Carol’s comment yesterday I have been thinking about the poem Abou Ben Adhem. It’s haunting words fill my heart. I cried when reading it yesterday. I shall leave you with it now:
Abou Ben Adhem
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.
–James Henry Leigh Hunt
Did YOU have a best friend in elementary school? Are you still in contact? Do you miss him or her?