1 – Childhood Friends

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The night before I left my childhood home for the very last time I ate cheap sushi in a strip mall with my best friends. We gathered around the lacquered tabletop like we had done so many times before and spent the evening getting as much mileage as we could from six spicy tuna rolls. My friends’ faces ebbed with the night—at times I saw traces of triumph flit across, and others a dim flash of concern. We were poised before something great but had no idea what to make of it.

How young we were. All shining eyes and careless hair.

College had always operated as a distant theory, a thing we ran haphazardly towards without a second thought. But in between the student council meetings and homecoming dances, the Powder Puff football games and five paragraph essays, we drove deep into the heart of Los Angeles and pretended to be older versions of ourselves, the selves we thought we should become.

Suburban escapees, we wore retro outfits that we thrifted and called “vintage.” We lined our lids with a heavy hand behind our cat eye glasses. We pawed through dusty records in dimly lit shops and flew down the canyons with our windows down, volume up.

To drive a car around LA was to own a small country. Fill that car with the people you could not live without, would not live without, never thought you could live without, and you had everything you ever needed. We had grown up with each other, these friends of mine, knew each other’s families with the intimacy of siblings. We squabbled with each other and cried. We could not imagine that we were propelling towards a future where whole years would go by without a single phone call.

When I was eighteen I rarely thought about being thirty. I could handle twenty—twenty was not so far away. Twenty was just before college graduation. Twenty was when I would hear from that internship, or write a book, or fall in love. But thirty? I would be old by thirty. Surely we would all be married by then, with a passel of kids running around while we laughed together, expansive and whole—bonafide adults. Surely.

I don’t know why I was surprised when that didn’t happen. How we drifted apart, rogue planets circling further and further away from each other’s gravitational pull. Those first few summers back, we got on like wildfire. The same trips to LA, the same record stores, the same beat up sneakers. We visited each other in the strange cities that were becoming more and more like home. Witnessed each other become incrementally less defined as a part of our herd and as one in another. We laughed the distance away. Stayed up IMing until three in the morning. Called each other when hearts were broken, virginities lost, and parents split. That shared history of our youth held us, however tenuously, together.

I read somewhere that the people you know today, your best friends and confidants, will probably not even be in your address books seven years from now. How sad, how true. Those friends of mine from childhood, I can count on three fingers how many I still think about, and even fewer who I still feel free to call up and chat like the old days. As I reach seven years since my college graduation, it has been less true—I still talk to and cherish my best friends from those years. But seven years from now? Will we even make the annual birthday call? I do not know.

I do not know why people fade from each other. The natural evolution of life, I suppose. Growth, etc. I know that my life is no less rich because of it. I savor those years of best friends—when we were a wild fiefdom of our own. Speaking in our own language of complicated inside jokes, doling out judgment as we saw fit, laughing hysterically as we drove donuts around a parking lot after eating cheap sushi together, before we would all leave the safety of our friendship and become the adults we were yearning to become.

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3 responses to “1 – Childhood Friends

  1. ohh I felt this piece in the pain of all my lost friends. It’s 7 years away from BYU for me too, and I have cried in just the last year at how so many of those bestest of bests have gone astray. I think it relates to what I wrote in my own piece – we all gather new experiences that are poorly represented, or misrepresented, to the point that we really have no idea what the other peoples’ lives mean anymore. And we don’t like how other people interpret our lives either – as if they do it wrong somehow, even if it’s not their fault at all! We just live different lives, when they used to be basically the same. Or maybe this is just me? Thanks, Amy. So so much for writing this.

    • Amen, Julianne! Lost friends is the worst kind of pain. I had a friend who once told me that we would probably not be friends in five years but it did not in any way discount the strength and beauty of our current friendship. It’s just that we change, she explained. While it was a crazy thing to think–not be friends with this lovely person five years from now?!–it was indeed true. And it did not discount how wonderful and fulfilling our friendship had been. It’s something I treasure to this day. It’s hard to have such good ends to all lost friendships, but that perspective helps me a whole lot. And yes, everything is different that once was the same.

  2. “How young we were. All shining eyes and careless hair.”
    how beautiful this is, dear amy, and so carefully observed, especially in the “I do not know why”. I often try to analyze why certain friendships last while others fade, why I feel more comfortable with some old friends and utterly awkward with others, but there is rarely a formula. I suppose, as you say, we can but pour what we have in each particular moment into the relationships we have in that particular moment, and feel saturated with the resulting wealth and beauty.
    but meanwhile, i’m so glad we are still friends.

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