Warm Hearts
Published in

Warm Hearts

this is not us, it’s from a card my sister sent that reminded her of us. photo by Gail Goodwin

First Friend

We are about as close in age as siblings can be without being twins. In fact, when we were young many people mistook us for twins. While we may have looked alike, we’ve certainly heard the stories of how our different personalities were evident even at the youngest age. You were the troublemaker, the instigator, and I followed the rules.

Curious how that changed as we got older.

Now to look at us, people might see sisters but not twins. The blond hair has darkened and is starting to whiten in spots. You are the stylish one, with a sophisticated eye for beauty that manifests in your look and your home. I’m the sporty outdoorsy one, always with scuffed-up shoes.

But underlying the physical differences there is a bond that no one knows but us. We’ve been through a lot together, starting with our parents’ divorce, the untimely death of our father, and the challenge of being raised by a single parent who became a mother before she was ready. It was these experiences that drew us together after the carefree fun of two little girls playing dress-up and inventing our own games (and yes, torturing our younger brother) turned serious as we took on the responsibilities of running a home and ordering our lives in the vacuum left by a beleaguered working mom.

You may not know this (I didn’t realize it until much later) but you were my surrogate conscience as my rebellious teenage years stretched into rebellious twenties. You were my safe harbor, my refuge, my guardrail.

Now as adults we’ve been through marriage, divorce, childbirth, miscarriages and C-sections, job loss, financial stress. And always survived. Always found things to laugh about. Always looked forward to the next opportunity to be together.

But things are starting to feel different. The division so apparent in our nation is permeating our family. I wonder what it means for our relationship. Even though our political beliefs are divergent — perhaps always have been — I sense from you at least a willingness to listen. And I am curious to understand where you are. I don’t want to change you. Just listen and learn.

Because we are in this together. We are family. You were my first friend. And I hope you will be my oldest friend. I imagine us sitting on a porch on a summer evening in 40 years listening to the Cranberries and reminiscing about little girls twirling in sundresses on the grass. How do we hold on to that and get through this time of divisiveness in our country?

The one thing that gives me hope is that no matter how touchy the subject, we’ve always been able to find at least a little bit of common ground. At times we even surprise each other by recognizing we’re not so far apart on some issues after all.

I’m driven by an ardent desire not to lose what we have, you and I. I also have a desire not to lose what we have, we being this country, this democracy. Can I love it as much as I love you? If you and I can find a way to navigate through this, can we all make it work on a bigger scale?

It all comes down to finding that common ground which comes from shared values, respect, and compassion — and requires a commitment from both sides. Throughout this past year with its triple whammy of pandemic, economic downturn, and social unrest you have shown a willingness to engage in discussion of hard topics. Not always, of course. There are times when I sense your dismissiveness, but it’s never permanent. You haven’t dismissed me completely.

Or have you? The last time we talked, the phone cut out twice for “no reason.” I find myself wondering if you were cutting me off. And you haven’t responded to my last few texts. Are we headed toward an impasse along with the rest of the country, or am I reading too much into this?

You are my oldest friend. My sister. You are a part of me. I love you and I need you. Have we found enough common ground in the past to support the roots of this relationship through whatever is coming next?

I don’t know, but I’ll keep trying if you will.

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Janice Shade

Janice Shade

56 Followers

Social entrepreneur, financial innovator, author. I seek the road less traveled…the seeds of innovation lie there.