As a family, we’d always live more or less in the ‘sticks’ – there were never any sidewalks, or pavement other than a road with no shoulders, no matter where we called home, we were far enough away from town that you needed a car to get to the library or store. While I had friends in school, I never had any that lived close to hang out with after school or on weekends until we moved to LaCanada Drive. For the first time, I had a friend who lived close enough that we could walk paths through adjoining property to play. Her name was Kim and her family had a pool, mine horses and we spent many summer days that year playing with our Barbie’s, eating Popsicle from the chest freezer in her family’s garage. When we moved, as we always did, I was 10 and asked if she would write me and be my pen pal – she said yes. Over the next seven years, I know I wrote many childish and lonely letters to her, sharing school stories, favorite music and activities – it was wonderful to me to keep connected to that piece of innocence & friendship through those letters, despite all of our moves and various homes across a couple of states. Her letters in the beginning shared much of the same interests but as time passed, we wrote less and her letters were more perfunctory in nature, which I didn’t really realize at the time (oh hindsight!).
After graduating from high school, I received a wedding invitation from Kim and I was surprised as it made me realize that she’d never talked about a boyfriend or even about her other friends in her letters over the years. I didn’t have a boyfriend and couldn’t imagine being ready to marry or share my life with another person for the ‘rest of my life’ as I viewed marriage at that age. There were so many new things coming – college, moving away from home, being on your own – there were so many things new to experience. Living two states away, readying to start my first year of college, I didn’t have money to fly to attend the wedding, instead spending the money I had on a wedding gift and shipping it with best wishes.
I was surprised to receive a wedding photo (she looked beautiful!) and thank you card a month later from her Mom. About a week after that, I received a letter from Kim, telling me that she would not be writing to me “ever again”, that she’d never really wanted to write to me in the first place or for all of those years, but that her Mom had insisted and now that she was married, she no longer had to communicate with me (i.e. obey her Mom).
I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t understand how her Mom could have ‘made’ her write all of those years (I would have stopped & told my Mom that she had quit writing!) or the venom that seemed to be contained in her words. Apparently, ‘having’ to write me over the years and reading about my boring life had been a huge bur under her saddle for a long time.
Her letter made me realized how naive I was about friendship, how few friendships I had that were long term in length because we moved so often and how fleeting friendship truly was. I also thought a lot about how little I knew of her when I thought I knew more.
It was a loss of innocence, friendship and a lesson in growing up, no longer believing or taking things at face value but always having to look under the ‘covers’ of comments, notes or questioning intent. I think about her every and and then and wonder how her life turned out.