The Secret Life of Melanie O.
 
Friday, March 31, 2006
Friends
I love my friends. I love my friends like they are family. In fact, since I am so far away from my biological family, my circle of friends is my family – and it’s a huge, extended family with branches all over the world. I like that. No matter where I go, I’m “home.”

When I was a kid, we were taught a song in Girl Scouts about friends:
“Make new friends, and keep the old,
One is silver and the other’s gold.”

Girl Scouts is probably the first place I learned to develop strong friendships. My best friends were Lisa, Terri, Karen and Gina. We grew up in the same housing development (except for Lisa), and spent our weekends together doing typical girl stuff like playing Bobby Sherman or Monkees records, dressing our Barbies, climbing trees, and being tomboys. If I wasn’t around the house on the weekends, my mother knew that I was playing in the creek with Terri and the neighborhood boys. Those were the days when summer seemed to last forever. Gina and Karen were quieter and more girly. It was usually Barbie and plastic ponies with them, or coloring books and TV.

Lisa lived further away, so my mother was forever carting me over to her house, where I usually felt homesick after an hour or so. Lisa’s brother owned a large pet iguana that was used to terrorize me. The family also owned a large white German Shepherd that would get excitable and snap at us and chase us through the house. To get away from the dog, we had to climb up onto the back of their large sofa and lean against the wall. We’d be screaming and laughing at the same time. There were some great sleepovers at Lisa’s house, though, because her mom didn’t seem to mind a gaggle of 9 year old girls hanging out there all the time. I spent my summers swimming around in Lisa’s pool with just my underpants on.

As we all got older, though, things changed. Terri’s parents got divorced. Terri moved away. Gina moved away. Karen never came over any more and became more shy and withdrawn. Lisa and I started to move in different circles. I was the brainy one. She was the athletic one. We just didn’t see each other any more.

By the time I reached Middle School, I had new friends: Joan, Andrea, and Tina. Ellie and another Karen joined my circle in high school. Ellie and Karen shared my love of French class. They were also honor students, so we were in a lot of classes together. Karen and I went to France together with our younger sisters. Joan and Tina investigated religion with me. I don’t know why – maybe we were all just looking for something. Joan and Tina were raised Catholic, I was raised Episcopalian. I don’t remember what church Andrea went to. I think she was Moravian or something.

Joan and I became two peas in a pod. We’d collect rain water and wash each others’ long hair. We collected dolls. We went fishing together with her dad in the row boat. We giggled over the same teen idols and nearly cried when they got married. We slept over at each other’s houses all the time, although I liked sleeping over at her house better because her neighbour let us pick the wild boysenberries that grew in his yard. We became closer than most sisters. In the winter, we ice skated together. In the summer, we played badminton or threw a football around.

We all grew older, and none of our lives stayed the same. Joan’s parents divorced and Joan went from being the fun-loving person I knew, to someone who was distant and critical. I mourned the loss of my closest friend even before we physically separated and moved apart. We all eventually married and moved away. Andrea went off and made new friends, unable to cope with our religious obsession (and to be fair to Andrea, we were pretty pushy about it.) I saw Ellie and Karen only once each after high school graduation. Ellie had landed a fabulous job as a French translator. Karen had moved to New York City.

With time, we all changed. I decided that religion wasn’t really what I wanted or needed. In fact, it was making me miserable. Joan decided the opposite and couldn’t understand how someone could feel so differently than she did. Tina became preoccupied with her family, as her father now needed her help with his business and with her mother, and Andrea became a distant memory.

Fortunately, while old friendships were fluctuating and fading, new ones have been forming. I couldn’t even begin to name even a fraction of my new friends’ names, for fear of accidentally leaving someone out. I think that’s the remarkable thing about friendships. No matter what’s going on in your life, you’ll have a friend who will match where you are mentally and emotionally. I still think about and care about my old friends. I wish them happiness and good health. I hate sometimes that things change so much. Adult friendships aren’t the same as your childhood ones, but you aren’t a child any more. Although, sometimes, when you least expect it, when you've got your guard down and are having fun with your friends, you catch glimpses of what you were like when you were a kid.
posted by Melanie O. at 4:16 PM -
2 Comments:
  • At 10:29 PM, Blogger gardenbug said…

    What do you mean you went swimming in your underpants? Without mother's knowledge or permission? You had a perfectly good bathing suit at home. Swimming in underwear is not a good thing...unless you are 3 years old or younger. You did a lot of things behind my back. Naughty Naughty

     
  • At 8:54 AM, Blogger LivinginOz said…

    hee hee! I was 8 or 9 - my last summer of kiddie freedom. Whoo hoo! :-)

     
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About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
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