Today is my best friend’s birthday. I’ve been working on a memoir about our friendship for almost fifteen years now, and while I’ve written a couple dozen stories, I’ve had a hard time finding a way to connect them into something cohesive. This summer I signed up for an online advanced memoir class at ACC, hoping that this would help me discover what I want to say about friendship. Our first assignment included an option to write a letter to our younger self or for our younger self to write a letter to our current self. I chose the latter, and I think I’ve finally figured out the answer to the question, “Why have Monica and I stayed friends for almost fifty years?” Here’s the letter I received from my 12-year-old self earlier this week:
Dear Old Lady,I know you’ve been trying to figure out why I stayed friends with Monica after Mother, Daddy and I moved away, so let me try to explain it to you.The start of my friendship with Monica wasn’t surprising because she was the only choice when I started second grade at Butterfield. The one other girl in our grade was poor and lived in a shack. If there had been a fourth girl in our class, I probably would have chosen her as a best friend because Monica always pressured me into doing scary things, like dancing to Nancy Sinatra songs in front of our class and breaking the playground rules. When I started sleeping over at her house, she talked me into sneaking beer out of her daddy’s cooler and hanging off the back of his utility company truck when her brother drove on the dirt roads around her house.So why, you ask, didn’t I ditch her as soon as I was surrounded by new friends ninety miles away in San Angelo? I guess the reason was that I felt I had deserted her, leaving her behind at Butterfield with no one. I thought she needed me to write letters, to call her on the phone, to visit in the summer, and so I did. Or maybe it’s because I’d come to like the person I was when I was with her.A little more than a year ago, everything changed, and I needed her. When my parents told me they were getting a divorce, she was the friend I called. I didn’t tell a single one of my new friends in San Angelo. (I wonder if you can remember any of their names.) When my mother and I moved back to Abilene last summer and she married Jerry, Monica invited me to stay at her house almost every night and made me laugh by calling Jerry “Daddy Long Legs.”I depended on Monica even more this past school year, as I started sixth grade in Abilene and then moved to Amarillo before Christmas break. I didn’t have time to make new friends in Abilene, and I’ve been an outcast in Amarillo with my boots and jeans and country music. Monica’s letters and calls are all that saved me from being completely friendless.This summer I’m moving to a different part of town with my mother and Jerry, and next year I’ll start a new school. I think I’ve figured out how to fit in better. I’m looking forward to a new start and making new friends, but Monica will still be my best friend.I don’t know what all will happen in the next forty-eight years, but I’m a little disappointed that you’re still looking for the reason your friendship lasts. You should have figured out by now that there is no one reason. There are a million, changing from year to year. Sometimes it will be loneliness, sometimes fear. Sometimes you will share common interests and sometimes simply a common history. Enjoy it all. You are lucky to have someone who is always exactly the friend you need.Love,Your 12-Year-Old SelfP.S. I hope you some day get reimbursed for those View Country Horse Rider’s dues Monica duped me out of.