When I was ten or eleven years old, I moved from Charleston, SC to Bowie, MD. Growing up as a Navy kid, I always enjoyed travelling and moving because I absolutely love meeting new people and seeing new places. I was particularly excited about this move because my father had just retired from the Navy and now we would be a “real” family and he would no longer have to go to sea and be away so long. Oh how I missed him being there when he was gone! We bought a big house in a beautiful neighborhood and I immediately made friends with a girl my age that lived two houses up. Her name was Dottie and we had the best time playing and riding our bikes! I started middle school there going into the seventh grade. In eighth grade, I was somewhat of a go-getter and remember perching myself at my assigned lunch table next to two very shy girls. Ronda and Kimmie! Being the outgoing person I have always been, I greeted them with a hearty “HI! I’m Crystal!” They just looked at me like I head five heads. I was bewildered and just kept talking. They kept looking at each other, then back at me, then at each other again and never really said anything to me! It didn’t matter, I just kept talking like I had known them forever! Kimmie and I became fast friends and I remember thinking to myself how incredibly kind she was.
In eighth grade I met Michelle…my little Michelle. She was very petite and had the best sense of humor. She had an air about her that was much like my own. She loved life, she loved to laugh and be silly, she loved music. Best of all, she was outlandishly brazen and liked to take risks that the rest of us were just in awe over! That was exciting and new to me! Risks?! OKAY LETS DO IT! Me, Kimmie & Michelle were the three amigos for the next 5 years! I will save all the scandalous stories that wove their ways through our lives and built our bonds for a much later time. This entry isn’t to highlight our rebelliousness.
After high school, we remained close friends, but over the years we fell out of each other’s circles through moves, relationships and following our own separate lives. Every few years, we would get back in touch, catch up and go back to our own lives. We never really rejoined each other’s circles, but we still had so many wonderful memories to recount and relive together. Our years together as teenagers truely was a magical time. The three of us shared a tremendous amount of grief, struggle, and silliness that connected us in ways I thought unimaginable. Without the two of them, I would not be who I am today. The both of them are smart, caring beautiful women that I have always adored!
2009 was our twentieth high school reunion! Early in the year, several people were reconnected through Facebook and the nostalgia for old times came rolling in. It had been about ten years since I had seen or talked to either of my bffs. I remember feeling a little guilty for letting things go that long. So….being who I am….I needed to find them once again. Kimmie was easy to find and just knowing that she missed me and still loved me was all I needed. I was glad to know that she is happy and well. I wasn’t able to find Michelle though. I looked in phonebooks, searched newspapers, googled her, checked MySpace and Facebook but just couldn’t find her. None of us that had been close to her as teens could seem to pin her down any sooner that about 8-10 years ago. At that point, I kind of gave up and figured I would find her eventually as I always did.
Life went on and then last week, Joannie sent me a message on Facebook. “Have you heard anything from Michelle? I just came across her son’s page and it said RIP Mom” MY HEART SANK…I mean the kind of plummeting, sick, scared, hurt kind of sank. Joannie and I searched the obituaries and found that Michelle’s x-husband had passed this last April but nothing about her. Joannie was a little leary about contacting Michelle’s son since she hadn’t been in contact with Michelle in so long. Especially since it seemed as though Michelle may have just recently passed. Neither of us wanted to intrude in her family’s lives at such a terrible time. I decided to throw caution to the wind and send Michelle’s son a message. To my incredible dismay, it was true. Michelle had passed this July 4th after an illness.
So I tell you all of this because I am wondering how many of us are missing someone in our lives that we always say…”Oh I’ll do it tomorrow” or “What if they don’t want to talk to me?” or…”Will they remember me??” PUHHHHLEASE! People get real….reach out….spread the love…be connected. Life is too short to wait! I never thought in a million years to connect with her through her children on Facebook and honestly I’m pissed at myself for missing the opportunity to tell Michelle that I loved her and I have missed her wisdom, love and support all these years! There have been SO many times that I needed both her and Kimmie to laugh with, to relax with, to bask in that ever-glow of eternal friendship. To feel recharged and comforted and to simply sit and have a drink (or two or three or twelve) with. Being a Navy veteran, and married to a sailor, I have missed out on having close friends because of our umpteen-thousand moves. Sure I have made good friends along the way (my Sammie-poo being the best) but when you’re a military spouse, you only let people get so close. Oh to have the comfort and love of an old friend who knows EVERYTHING about your WHOLE life is an amazing gift that we should all nurture just a little bit more. It’s so easy to isolate, it’s so easy to withdraw, but how much fuller would your life be – how much fuller would my life be now if I had searched for her just a little bit longer, a little bit harder?
I dont feel guilty about not finding my little Michelle until it was too late because I know in my soul that she knew how much I love her and how much I have missed her. She knows how much she meant to me. I do feel sad that I will never have the opportunity to bring her back into my circle. I do feel sad that she will never know my kids and that I have missed out on knowing hers! I do feel sad that she leaves behind 3 great kids who must be so lost right now. In life there is death, in death there is grief, in grief there are tens of thousands of epiphanies waiting to transpire. If you wait to love people, you will lose out on so much of life and living. That is the butt-ugly truth.