It is amazing how powerful the intentions of a twelve-year-old can be…and how long they last.
When I was twelve, I ran head first into my best friend in the entire world, that one sliver of soul found in another person that will never, ever fade from my life. Not a romantic soul-mate, by any means (my husband has completely enveloped that part of me), but a sister in life, a person who is now one of the most amazing women I have ever known. Strong, independent, with a wild hunger to embrace the world’s geography, people, and ideas, she is immediately loved by everyone and cherished for the hope and encouragement that she radiates. At times we are so different that I almost fall over in awe of the way she thinks and acts toward others. And then, she is the only person who understands certain parts of me, who gently grasps the knowledge shared by a glance or a noise or a piece of gibberish.
When we were twelve, the horrors and infinite excitements of sixth grade bound us together. With only a few months left in the school year, her parents’ divorce meant a move from her unbridled mountain home in Colorado to the shelter of her parents’ families in Georgia. This was back when divorce was still a rare thing, when it horrified both children and parents alike with the capacity for social stigma (I am not belittling the gravity of divorce nowadays, but the sad truth of the current high divorce rate has now become an ironically voiced warning to affianced and newlyweds alike). My parents had been divorced for two years, and so I understood the emotional maelstrom and confusion, but could not be with her physically to share it.
We were devastated by this physical separation. Our friendship had been only eight months long, but the strength of friendship is not always measured by time. It took another two months for me to squeeze her new address and phone number out of my school principal. Neither of our families had expected to be bombarded with requests for communication, to be assailed by morose complaints of two girls who missed each other desperately.
For my thirteenth birthday, I asked for a plane ticket to visit her in Georgia. The request was met with a laugh and soft pat on the head. “Oh, that’s sweet, but we can’t get you a plane ticket. We’re sure you miss your friend, but you’ll make new ones.”
I did visit her once, where I stayed with her at her grandparents’ house while her mother found a new apartment for herself and three children. The tension of their circumstances was thick around us, but it mirrored the tension in my own two homes, and I was only two happy to share it with her. We were sprouting halos of light for each other, both sanctuary to be who we were and energy to strive toward something more.
Three years later, she managed a week in Colorado, and I a week in Georgia. That summer and the two after that were the most thrilling, relieving, rejuvenating summers of my adolescence. We saved money from our teenage jobs to pay for two weeks a year. Two weeks a year we had the other to ourselves, and it quickly became apparent to our families and friends that we were as deeply ingrained in each other’s lives as the need for food and shelter. We talked each other through trials, sickness, depressions, and fears. We laughed and cried with each other’s successes, adventures, and relationships. Twice she was physically with me when I made incredibly poignant choices in my late teens and early twenties that changed the course of my future. And no matter how much time we spent apart or how long we went without a phone call, it always felt both like we picked up where we left off, and that we had been there through every decision, met every person, witnessed every new stage.
Through countless phone calls (in the beginning asking our parents for just an hour of long-distance phone time across the country), skypes, and emails (which started out as hand-written notes penned in at least five different colors and mailed in doodle-drenched envelopes), we fueled each other. She grew with my music and writing. I grew with her artwork and passion for people.
I watched her grow from the painfully introverted, awkward, and as she called herself “frumpy” teenager into the confident, colorful, passionate woman who never stops moving forward. From the girl who sat alone to the girl who never gets a moment alone. And still, through all these years, we have talked and dreamed of the day when we would live close to each other, when we would be in the same state again to enjoy the physical proximity that our powerful friendship always lacked.
When I moved to South Carolina three years ago, I thought that the five hour drive just north of Atlanta was nothing. It was worth it to make the trip every couple of months, when she happened to be staying with her mom instead of literally traveling the world. I could be there for her when things got rough, at the twist of the ignition, and that realization was one of the most poignant satisfactions I’d experienced. No more expensive plane tickets – she rode the Greyhound to my house to be the Maid of Honor in our wedding!
When my husband and I announced that we were finally moving to California a six weeks ago (after planning it for a year and a half and finally putting the pieces together), I almost came undone under the exquisite realization that my best friend and I would finally be living in the same state! Yes, California is big, but the same state nonetheless.
The husband and I made the trip to California, looking for a town that would be central for the multiple locations of his job, and in which we would actually enjoy living. The first house we looked at to rent was absolute gold, and we managed to snag it out from under four other searching renters. And then found out that my best friend, who has shared my vigorous yearning to live close to one another, works in the next town only fifteen minutes away. After all of her traveling and adventurous pursuit, after all of the moving and stationing my life in an unknown and completely thrilling trajectory, I would be moving into a fantastic house just minutes from the summer camp that is her work, home, and recreation. I can pick her up for a few hours to roam small, liberal, perfect towns that we both know and enjoy. I can offer her a bed and a retreat from her deliciously hectic life for a single night, a single afternoon, a single hour.
And I can pick her up and take her out to lunch.
That’s just what I did today. We picked up right where we left off, like we had been with each other the whole time through the last six months. Nothing has changed, and everything has changed, and our twelve-year-old selves have fulfilled their intentions with what feels like chance, and is nothing more than fate.
This is as much a tribute to her as it is a reflection for myself; that sometimes what seems like the next chapter is actually just a sequel.