I have been graciously invited to a baby shower for a childhood friend.
We met when we were three. My family bought the house across the alley from her family, and although our parents (mostly our moms) didn't see eye to eye on almost anything, B and I were inseparable for the remainder of our childhood years. That's a long time! There were times when we were told not to cross the alley (when some rule had been broken or when Mrs. S. grew weary of having a 7th child to look out for), so we would meet in the middle of the alley with our Barbie dolls and play there. It worked for us.
B's family moved out of town when we were in 6th grade. Although we hadn't gone to elementary school together (we each went to different parochial schools), we played together every day (barring sickness, for Pete's sake, but sometimes even then...) and loved each other dearly. We camped in our back yards together. We played in the sandbox, creating elaborate villages that had pine cone trees and moss yards. We played in snowbanks and built tunnels spectacular enough to make moles jealous and snow forts worthy of brotherly bombardment. We hung out in the fort that Mr. S built for us--mostly, I think, to keep us out of the bridal wreath bush that we had practically built a house in the middle of. We spent hours on the tire swing which hung from the 300-year-old oak tree in their back yard. We made cucumber shoes and boats from the shells of those cucumbers deemed not worthy of canning by Mrs. S. We ate grapes from the arbor in their back yard and filled our bellies to nearly overflowing on mulberries from the tree in their front yard. We played hide-and-seek in the garden and between the sheets on the clothesline. We played kick the can and ghost in the graveyard on summer nights. We learned to ride bikes together, and skinned our knees many times--always to hear her mom say, "Put some salve on it!" We signaled to one another through the treetops by turning lights on and off--she from her bedroom and me from our bathroom. And when it was hot, their house was the only place in my childhood where my thirst was quenched with the ultimate childhood beverage of the 70's and 80's--Koolaid.
So when they moved away, it was traumatic. I remember watching their big red van pull the last load of boxes and laundry baskets, with B's face plastered to the foggy window, the tears blurring my last glimpse of my childhood bosom friend who had been a kindred spirit in every sense of the phrase.
We visited--or rather, I visited--as much as we could. Overnights were the norm, because the town where she lived was 30 minutes away. We got used to the new house, and played the same old games, although some of the charm of Barbie was lost with the lack of an alley. There was a sandbox at the new house, but it was much smaller than the old one. There was no fort; there wasn't even a bridal wreath bush. But the love we had for one another was as strong as ever. Even though she had two older sisters and one younger, and I had one older sister, we were True Sisters in our hearts.
The family moved back into the old house several years later. They had retained ownership of the place, and had converted it into a two-flat. I had some great babysitting gigs in that house, and met the woman who played the part of labor coach for me at the Frog's birth when her family moved into the upstairs apartment. It was strange though; their living room had been B's bedroom. Their kitchen had been Mr. and Mrs. S's bedroom. The stairs were blocked completely off.
When the S family moved back home all those years later, B and I were in high school. We almost never saw one another now, because she was away at school...and I was home as little as possible. For a time, I lived with my Grandma, and every now and then Mrs. S would call and say, "B will be coming home this weekend. Why don't you come visit?"
Every time we saw one another, most things were the same...but there were people in our lives that neither of us had known in our early years who were quickly becoming good friends to us. It was a little like marrying into a big family, when you begin hearing stories of people you don't know but are now attached to through your spouse. Even if you meet these other people, you can't quite picture the stories because you just don't know them.
When B went to college in a neighboring state and then decided to stay there, I was sad...but somehow it was okay, too. I still missed her--terribly at times--but the pain of it had grown dull over time.
I wasn't able to make it to her bridal shower or her wedding, both held within the last year. Life happens so much more frequently these days, and I've found that although I am still friends with a handful of women from my youth, my station in life does not afford the luxury of meeting up with them very often. Most of the people I spend time with now are circumstantial friends--that is, we've met and become friends because our circumstances are similar. We've met because we go to church together, or are homeschooling our large families. Of all of my childhood friends, I was married the youngest and had children much, much earlier. B is the second friend of mine from those years to have her first child this summer--my friend K had a very handsome son earlier this month. Here I am expecting my 5th on earth, God willing, and have two little saints in heaven praying for their Mama. We all just don't have that much in common anymore.
But I suspect that when I see her at her shower tomorrow at her parents' house, B and I will be able to relive some of those childhood memories.
After all, grapes and mulberries are in peak season.