Being a child from a military family and moving frequently often meant the relationships that I was able to secure and enjoy always had an expiration date. As a child you can do your best to keep in touch with those kids that meant something to you, but it’s not always possible when you’re moving every two to three years. You’re limited (or rather you used to be limited) to snail mail and random five-minute phone calls granted to you by parents hoping to ease their child’s pain of relocating and starting over, each granted contact a gift to be treasured because long distance phone calls weren’t cheap. For that matter, keeping kids supplied with their own personal stamp collection wasn’t either.
So friendships dropped off and people drifted away, and all that was left were token letters, mementos and memories. Technology has made it so the harsh realities of yesteryear are no longer for families in similar predicaments. Now, a child moves away from their friends, sure, there’s the risk of drifting apart when you live in different worlds and have different realities. But if the desire to keep in touch is there, it’s completely possible. With e-mail and IM and cell phones and video chat and social networks and all of these tools we have on hand, the world works in our favor, enabling us to keep in touch with people that mean something to us. Kids that have the same experience of moving and changing and shifting their lives every couple of years are no longer subjected to those pangs of loss that those of us from my era and before did just a few short years ago.
Through this blog my friends can keep up with what’s happening in my life, since I actually am pretty crummy at e-mailing and keeping people updated these days. Through Twitter my blog pals and real-life friends alike can hear my up-to-the-minute thoughts, musings or daily dalliances should they choose. Through Facebook, past and current family and friends are granted a peripheral peek into my life: who I’m spending time with, what my children are doing, what I now look like, my values, whether I ever lost the weight, who I hate on the Bachelor and whether or not I’m with Team Coco. If I choose to put it out there, they’ll know my religion, my politics and my bra color, all in a nice, convenient little package. My life, condensed, grossly oversimpflied and exposed with a click of the mouse button.
These facts were brought into focus once again when a friend from elementary school friended me on Facebook. This person was someone I never expected to reconnect with because, frankly, I had, once again, only remembered her as the girl who accused me of stealing her school supplies (which I didn’t). She was a threat to a friendship that I lacked the common sense to feel secure in. Yet here she was, friending me. It gave me pause. The irony was not lost on me when I noticed she had just friended the girl whose friendship I felt was threatened by her, and I laughed to myself thinking, “She’s doing it again!”
As I clicked through her profile, browsing her pictures, her wall posts and the superficial information she chose to share with the world, I realized something I had failed to recognize in myself before. All of the memories I had of this person were negative, but that’s only because I had chosen to remember her in this way. The truth is if I hadn’t liked her I would never have played at her house. I wouldn’t have swam in her pool during the day or skinny-dipped, giggling and embarrassed, by moonlight. I wouldn’t have had the sleepovers or even the memories that had taken me on the path to insecurity. She had been my friend, and I had been unkind and unfair to her in my memories all these years. I had not done our friendship justice.
Had I known then what I know now, I would have realized that she never was a threat to the friendship I valued so deeply. I would have valued her friendship rather than giving her the brushoff. I would have realized that part of the reason I had clung so fiercely to that friendship in the first place was that looming expiration date that could be brought into focus, courtesy of the US Navy. I would have been less sensitive and quick to have my feelings hurt (a problem I have admitted to in the past). I would have not used a critical eye and microscope when looking back through the years. Instead, I would have used a really wide screen that gave me a 360-degree view of what was because maybe it was really awesome. Or maybe you’ll see you through other people’s eyes, and you’ll actually learn something. Who know Facebook could be so therapeutic?
Though, I’ll be honest, if Nancy O from fourth grade who spread the room that I had lice*, which explained why I always wore my hair down, comes knocking, it’s going to take a really, really, really wide screen, some 3-D glasses and a vat of chocolate to find that “something” to appreciate.
*For what it’s worth? Never had lice in my entire life (knock on wood!). I just wore my hair down because I didn’t care to put it up. And my mom left for work early in the morning, so I was largely responsible for getting myself ready.