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Thursday, April 08, 2004

Fast friendships

Last Saturday a new family moved into our neighborhood, just across the street. We had heard the rumors that the family had a fifth-grade and third-grade boy. My two older guys were anxious to find out. Sure enough, the moving van arrived on Saturday and they were itching to go over.

I told them to give the family a chance to settle in and then they could go over. That lasted until Monday after school. The boys, without telling me (which is a problem for the overprotective mom in me), went to their house and introduced themselves. And every day this week after school they have been inseparable—playing hoop, playing on the swing set, skateboarding, talking and becoming good friends—fast.

I envy their ability to say, "Hey, you like basketball? Who's your favorite NBA player?" and instantly bond. Adults could learn a lot about making friends from kids. It's not something we do easily as we get older. If we work in a particularly close-knit environment, we'll develop work colleagues for a while. And there's the parents of your kids' friends who definitely enter your circle. But I'm talking about true friends—the ones who will tell you when you're being an idiot and be the first to congratulate you on a success.

Clearly, I've never really had a best friend, except for my sister. It all stems from one incident in junior high. I was on the track team in ninth grade. Unfortunately, I developed early (a curse for a 14-year-old girl with braces). My "friends" would tease me often and one day they just stopped talking to me. This went on for two weeks. It was horrifying. I cried to my mom every day. It got so bad that my mom called one of my friends' moms and asked what was going on. It turns out that it was all a big joke—"Let's see how long we can go without talking to Wendy. We didn't mean to hurt your feelings." What?! It broke me and caused me to never trust female friends again.

This is not to say I don't have female friends. I do. I've formed a good friendship with many of my fellow moms, particularly those who also have three boys. But I'm very reserved in talking about personal stuff. I'm terrified of opening myself up to that kind of hurt again. I had good friends in college, but I knew my life was going in a very different direction. My Long Island roommate wanted to marry well, my Pittsburgh roommate married a guy that neither I nor my husband could stand, and the rest have scattered to the wind.

I read the book, "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" and howled with laughter at the antics of the four crazy southern friends. But when I rented the movie version, I sat and cried endlessly. I realized I had no person who shared my history and I suddenly felt very alone. My sister, who is four years younger than I, has always been around, except for those years when first I was in college and then she was — eight important, formative, challenging years. I also realized how closed off I am to people, even those closest to me.

But there's hope. I've recently found a great friend, one who understands my soul as well as my flaws, and who illuminates my better side. One who encourages me to be a better person and in turn makes me WANT to be a better friend, wife, mother and writer. In very short order, this friendship has become priceless and has filled a void I thought would never be filled. I'm so grateful at this stage in my life to have found someone so incredibly giving. And so maybe I'll try a little harder to let others in to see what my new friend, who already feels like an old friend, sees.

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