A trip down memory lane triggered by notes from my childhood bestie.
A long footnote: Before posting this letter, I reached out to Betty to let her know I had written about our friendship. Her gracious response, even before seeing what I wrote, was what every budding memoirist hopes for. She told me she knew my memories and words were mine to publish, even if she played a role in that story.
After reading my letter, she responded with a rare generosity, sending a heartfelt note filled with her own memories. “When I think of those times when we were closest and how much I both loved you and probably hurt you as well, I do wish I could have done some things differently,” she wrote. She also extended an invitation for coffee, albeit 15 years late.
After getting over my surprise, I let out a sigh of relief — one larger than I realized I was holding on to after all this time. I believed that the act of letter writing would act as closure. I hadn’t anticipated a back and forth (how our notes used to be!), and certainly not one that would help heal an invisible scar on my heart.
It turned out to be an unexpected gift.
We all want to be seen — to know that what we felt and lost was not one-sided, not simply the yearnings of a child’s imagination. Those earliest experiences — learning to love unconditionally, to trust capricious young beings, to be a true friend — are formative and don’t dissipate as the threads of friendship fray and dissolve.
Sitting on my couch, I was struck with deja vu reading her words: “Your friendship was unconditional, and many times I felt I betrayed that and fell so devastatingly short in giving my love to you in return. You were my best friend, and at times I gave you my worst.”
All at once, I realized she must have told me this before. That maybe I couldn’t hear her then, in my own struggle to define loyalty and friendship. Maybe what was lost wasn’t contingent on her ability to give, but on my own ability to forgive.
Now, with the wisdom of time, I choose to believe that we are always becoming closer to the people we wish to be. And my dearest wish is to be the kind of friend that can forgive another — and accept an invitation to make amends.