There are two types of mates. There are the new friends you make later in life, when you’re older. People you’ve got something in common with. People whose company you enjoy. It’s fresh and exciting, you can meet them for a cappuccino, have them over for meals. You like them. And you can really talk to them, about feelings and all that.
And there are the old friends, the ones you were brought up with, who go further back than you remember, who’ve been there since the beginning. You didn’t choose them – they’re like family. Like blood. You never see them anymore because they’ve all moved off in different directions, gone their separate ways, but you’d still walk under a bus for them, willingly, if they asked. You don’t make friends like that again. It’s just that one time – the time before you remember – or it’s never at all.
Simon Armitage, Little Green Man
When I first read it, this quote made me a little sad, because I don’t have any of the second kind of friend, old friends from way back. Worse, I can’t get any now. I can’t go back in time and make childhood friends. If there are two kinds of friends, and I only have one, doesn’t that mean my life is less than it could be, less than other people’s lives are? That’s one way to look at it. On a day when I’m feeling bad about myself, that’s as far as I’d look. It’s all about me, and about how I’m not good enough, complete enough, enough period.
But today I’m not feeling bad about myself. Today I’m choosing to believe that I can make my own categories. People I met after therapy and people I met before, maybe. Sure, I met them all as adults, but the latter know more about me, saw me go through the changes. Even if we stick with the old and new kinds set out in the quote, I can define “old” to mean someone I met in high school, like Mr. Karen. Yes, I still remember high school, but the older I get, the more stuff has happened since. When we’re all in our 80’s, it probably will seem like I’ve known those people forever.
Still, why don’t I have any friends from way, way back, before high school? Maybe I wasn’t likeable enough. That’s the low self-esteem answer. It may be partly true, too; a glum little girl probably isn’t much fun to hang out with, and I was glum a lot of the time. Still, I think it has a lot to do with all the chaos and instability in my life during those years, and my reaction to it. I attended four different schools in four years in the elementary grades, so there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to establish strong bonds with the other kids. Even if there were someone I liked and wanted to play with, it wasn’t a good idea to have her come over, since Dad could go into a rage at any time. He was more likely to rage if had someone over, actually, since his tolerance for noise and childish hijinks was never very high. I can’t put it all on Dad and changing schools a lot, though. Some kids would have made lots of friends in my situation. I didn’t.
It wasn’t that I never played with other kids, but I never had a big group of friends. Not that I remember, anyway, and if I don’t remember them, we couldn’t have been that close. I do remember a few people, but no one I’d walk under a bus for. There’s the girl whose dad built her a playhouse in their backyard, with real windows and doors and everything. I thought that was very cool. I remember more about the playhouse than I do about her. The closest thing I have to a way back mate is Margaret, my best friend during the time I went to the experimental school. We almost had to be friends, since we were the only two girls near the same age, and we had plenty of time to bond because the school day was very flexible. We didn’t have to be in class, so we could explore the barn and the stream and the chicken coop and talk about anything. Being young and innocent, we talked about candy a lot, I remember. I started to eat Heath bars because she liked them, and still do think of her sometimes when I eat toffee candy. I never did develop a taste for the Charleston Chew bars, but I tried. Still, I doubt I’d recognize her if I saw her today. Maybe I should look her up, see if the magic of the Internet can connect us again. But then what? Ask her if she’d walk under a bus for me? No, that’s not appropriate. I think I’ll focus on the friends I have now, and hope I don’t have to have anyone walk under a bus for me.
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