Ten days ago, I had the honor of being a bridesmaid for my high school best friend who has been like a sister through the years. The wedding was in Georgetown. A stone’s throw from President Obama’s discussion of health care and GOP debates, lobbyist pleas and House votes. But for a day, we forgot all those things, let the weight of the world slide off our backs without any guilt. No, some days are born for no other purpose than to be enjoyed. As the Good Book says, there is a time for everything.
Growing up, my mom used to say that friendships came in seasons. Being a child who swapped locks of hair, friendship bracelets, and solemn oaths, I found that statement horrific. To me, it demeaned the veracity of my relationships and trivialized my loyalties. A twelve-year-old Sarah took great offense. In my mind, my mom’s dogma had absolutely no substance, and I went on a mission to prove her wrong. Me being me, I turned to my books as evidence.
Literature was saturated with friendships that were far more than a change of season. First, of course, was Anne of Green Gables and her faithful Diana. Then you had Huckleberry Finn and Jim, the girls of Little Woman (granted, they were sisters), Sara Crewe and Ermegarde, Pollyanna and Jimmy Bean, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Emma Jane, Betsy and Tacy, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, and the list went on and on. Seasons, my foot, so I said.
But last week, amongst the group of bridesmaids, the wisdom in my mom’s words dawned on me. Seasons of friends gathered round my honorary sister. Yes, I was her high school best friend, but she’d made many more through the years. All of us had laughed and cried and journeyed with her for a time. And just like with seasons, summer may give way to fall, but it will come again. It’s Nature’s law.
So there I sat in my matching dress when my friend, bright as the sun and glinting happiness, did something completely ordinary: she giggled. And suddenly, past the bloom of womanhood and regal apparel, I saw us at thirteen. I’d just moved to the suburbs of Washington, D.C. from a little town in Kansas and didn’t know a soul when, like an angel, an answer to prayers, there she was smiling and inviting me to hang out at the local pool, grab a Slurpee from 7-Eleven, and be her friend. Simple as that. Nearly two decades later, we’ve been friends over half our lives.
One of my writing professors once told me never to have my characters cry. Tears were to be used sparsely on the page or run the risk of melodrama. But those rules don’t apply to reality because sometimes the beauty of life is nothing less than overwrought emotions. Only tears will do. This was that kind of moment.
“Sar,” said my friend when my eyes welled and threatened to streak mascara. “You know what happens when you cry.”
Indeed, she and I knew well. I’m not a pretty crier. My face twists up on itself, turns bright red and puffs beyond recognition. I laughed. She laughed.
“You’re beautiful,” I said, and yes, I meant right then but I also meant for all of time. No matter the season.
I know each of her best friends felt like I did that day. Each holds a treasure trove of memories unique to their friendship. My mom was right. I was just too young and naïve to understand. Seasons, you see, are remarkable things because each ending isn’t an ending at all, but a promise of another beginning.
Yours truly, Sarah