I'd just moved to Columbia, SC that summer of 2005 and approached a break from hanging posters and situating trinkets within my new room. I saddled my bike and flew off to knock on the doors of every house with a street conjoined to mine. I asked anyone who would open their door one simple question without any explanation or any back story: “Do you have kids?”
At the time, my eight year-old self was just desperately searching for someone to play with and I didn't think of the context of that question in any of these people's lives. I wasn’t interested in becoming friends with adults but as it turned out, it didn't matter if my friends were my age or not. My closest friend ended up being a girl that lived right across the street from me. When we met that day, Haley was just one year old.
I spent a few weeks this summer (of 2018) back at my home and seized the opportunity to reconnect with my neighbors; people who had built their own lives just a few feet from mine. I had lost contact with most of them and vice versa but they still lived the same length of footage away from where I did. I decided rekindling our friendships would be fun:
I called my older neighbor one morning to ask if I could come browse through her house. Outside of her house is an elaborate garden with winding paths and covered hiding spots. I'd watered her flowers while she was on trips and gained substantial revenue for an 11 year-old from doing so. She collects and builds extravagantly detailed doll houses and miniatures and has them on display all over her home. That day, she walked and talked me through each, stopping to describe the stories behind the street art that hangs on her walls between each miniature home. I loved the idea that she had constructed and created every material thing she may have ever wanted and had them all, although miniature living within her real home. I was inspired to try my hand at it the next day.
I ‘instagrammed’ my old friend Haley (this is the best way to communicate with thirteen year-olds) and invited her to go bird house shopping with me. We each picked out darling houses that would have been merely impossible architectural feats for birds. As we painted and sculpted chimneys and mailboxes for our houses, we reminisced on the years we had spent playing outside and pretending to be people we were not. She recalled stories that I'd forgotten, simply because I hadn't thought of them since they occurred. Her memories revealed deep emotional bonds we had built and her retelling them to me seemed to be proof of their impact on her. My heart became so full and, admittedly relieved that the years we had lived distant from each other did not erase the childhood that we had shared.
A few days after painting our ideal bird houses, I spontaneously threw a tea party for the girls that lived in my neighborhood. Most of the girls my age live out of town now, so I invited the few I knew that still live with their parents. The high-school girls (and Haley) that showed up were old friends that I'd taken trick-or-treating or gone to holiday parties with. It seemed that each of us, although friendly with each other had acquired different styles and friends over the years. We contributed varying conversation subjects and, at first were working to become comfortable with each other’s interests and approaches to language. But we were soon joking and sipping and eating agreeably amongst a table dressed with my great grandmother’s antique tea cups and faded doilies.
This time spent reconnecting acts as meaningful places for our friendships to leave off. We were reminded of each other’s uniqueness and gifts and will continue to recall these instances until our next rekindling where we will be intimately reminded of our friendships yet again.