The friend of the past re-creates the present
I saw an old friend a while ago. She was my babysitter when I was five and she was fifteen. We were both rather odd children, felt we didn’t fit in (I know, it’s an old story, but when it’s yours, it’s as if it were told for the first time.) We bonded in many ways; became like siblings instead of babysitter/client. At the time, my parents were working full time in their business, and I was convinced they liked the business more than they liked me. This was true on some level. I felt they needed this babysitter-person to keep me out of the way. I didn’t realize at the time, but my babysitter valued her time with me as much as I did mine with her. She had an older brother, but he was uncommunicative. This new child (me) was cute, inquisitive, and thought the world of her. As time went on our sibling/friendship continued.
She got married when I was ten and she was twenty. I didn’t much like her groom, a person I’d known almost as long as I’d known her. Nevertheless, I was pleased to be asked to participate in the wedding, even though I wasn’t the right age (too old to take on one of the little kid’s roles, not old enough to be in the grown-up lineup). I made friends with the flower girl, a charming cherub that refused to let go my hand during the entire reception. The pictures of this are among my friend’s favorites.
She had a baby when she was twenty-five and I was fifteen. I was asked to be a god-parent—again, not quite the right age for such a venture. We didn’t care. The baby seemed pleased enough. Both of us now have re-evaluated what it means to be a god-parent. Though raised within the same religion, we’ve traveled divergent paths since then. The little girl, my god-daughter, also goes her own way.
She got divorced when she was thirty and I was twenty. I can’t say I was disappointed, for myself, as her husband was my least favorite part of visiting her. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a decent, good person. I just wished for her so much more. My heart went out to her, as she was now something called a “single mother”. She had two more children by then, both boys. The five of them did the divorce dance: lived with the mom, saw the dad on weekends and holidays. Everyone remained cordial, the kids were fine, so far as we know.
She came by to see me a couple of years ago. She lives two states away, and as we’re in the west of the US, it was quite a trip. She travels a surprising amount, now. She’d discovered her birth family, and has a whole new set of cousins. I was shocked to learn that she’d never felt she belonged to her adoptive family, even though she remembered no other. She was raised to think—as I was—that the bonds of love in a created family are strong, and good, and sure. Oh yes, her little girl, my god-child: she was adopted, too. My god-child is being encouraged to find her birth family, if she and they wish this. There is open communication about how there can be many kinds of relationships in our lives. She is loved, and she knows it. She is special, and knows that. Her brothers are not adopted. She has come to terms with that, as have they.
During her visit, my dear lifetime friend told me of how her parents were so afraid of losing her, after waiting years and years to have a child, that they clamped down upon her every activity. She was not allowed to do the usual teenage things. Her engagement, at such a young age, was her bid for freedom—kind of amusing, really, as she married the son of her parent’s best friends—nevertheless, he was there, and willing, and took her to a different place in her life.
As she drove off, to meet more new cousins, I couldn’t help but think of my own first family. How I sometimes was convinced I must be adopted. (Do many of us do that?) My parents, like hers, were much older than the other kids’ parents, and being a sensitive child, this embarrassed me. They were so, well, uncool. They were my natural parents, though, and I spent my childhood in sort of a muddle, as I was the same age as my second cousins, rather than my first. My sister, my only sibling, is a lot older than I am, too; in fact I can’t remember a time we lived together in the same house. Her children are not much younger than I am. So, I really don’t fit in, age-wise, philosophy-wise, religious-wise. I go my own way. But when I reconnect with someone like my former babysitter, I’m glad.
She recently sent me an email, wishing me a happy birthday. Our birthdays are within a month of each other’s, and of course I know exactly how old she is. She now lives in two cities, and her children spend time with each of their parents. They’re very independent, yet know they are cared for. She and I live such different lives. But, we became the persons we are today with each other’s support, and understanding, and love.