An Open Letter to An Old Friend

Dear Friend,

I’m already hesitating writing this letter. I wanted to handwrite it, but I got frustrated with a bunch of pencils with either no erasers or ones that needed to be sharpened. Go figure, the damn sharpener has broken without anyone letting me know! We have two pens that I can locate, but neither have quality ink to write more than a barely readable signature on a check. Plus, I may get sappy, so perhaps typing is best considering that there will be no words to smudge should I start sobbing uncontrollably, or a shaking hand to make my writing illegible, and I know how you are about those types of things; beautiful handwriting is a must, but typing would be second best compared to shitty handwriting you could barely read.

I wish I could go back in time.

Honestly, I do, despite the fact that I tend to fly by the seat of my wayward, awkwardly fitting pants and lean more toward ‘what is said is said’, ‘what’s meant to be will be’, ‘no regrets’, or however those italicized sayings in picturesque memes go when they pop up in my newsfeed.

I said hurtful things to you back then. Looking back, I don’t know how I became so offensive about so many things that before I was relaxed within. I have turned it over in my head again and again, mostly because I feel terrible about how I handled myself. Instead of being gentle, kind, and loving, expressing myself in ways I always had when we disagreed on things, I lashed out and let my insecurities press forward, as though I was a teenager again telling my mom I absolutely was not going to wear one of those frilly dresses she always picked out for me.

Out of all of the friends I have had—ones who have come and gone, or others who have stuck around for the long haul—none of them have settled into the pit of my stomach for so long like you have, and for the life of me, I hadn’t been able to figure out why that was so.

At first when you would pop into my brain, I would just become angry, retracing my steps and words that were exchanged, or not exchanged. Trying in every single way to validate myself. ‘To hell with that! To hell with this!’ I would declare inside my head. ‘Why in the hell do I even care?’ Then I would tend to the dishes, vacuum the floors, or put something witty on Facebook about one of the girls to get enough likes to feel a moment of faux satisfaction about myself.

‘Pfft, yeah! See. I don’t need to think about this.

What’s done is done. I said what I needed to say.’

Obviously, my ego would do whatever it needed to in order to stand between my heart, my faith, and my goodness to prove that it was bigger and better than all of those things combined; however, this morning, my ego was uprooted and exposed.

You see, I went to yoga, and at the beginning of our practice our teacher gave us a meditation prompt. “Think of someone who is far away,” she said, “but whom you also love. Think of them and send love.”

As God tends to do, He met me on my mat right at the beginning of class with my hands folded into prayer before my heart, my eyes closed, and my head bowed down. With my ego thoroughly rendered powerless within that quiet room and before God, your name came to mind. I made a decision. Instead of shoving you beneath my mat to stand upon like a mountain in Warrior 2, I let my mind go where God needed it to. I let my heart open, and by the time my practice was complete, I found myself unable to holdback the tears as I surrendered into savasana.

On the way home I devoured a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, surrendering this time to the growing baby boy within my womb. I allowed myself to soften, to seek answers, and to understand what it is exactly that is bothering me so much still about our last meal together. It came to me somewhere around the I-40/440 exchange:

I don’t merely miss a friend; that loss I have known before through various moves and growing up and growing apart.

This time it is much different because, you see,

what I miss is not only my friend,

but someone who has become much more like a sister to me.

Even though it has been months since we have spoken, and even though just a few short days ago I would have punched myself in the fingers for even thinking about surrendering to offer an apology, here I find myself, sitting in front of my blog of all places (because it was a click away on my home screen and searching for Microsoft Word would have afforded too much time to hesitate), writing to you through the vast, open void that is the internet.

At this point, I will publish this as a blog post because why the hell not? I have terrible writer’s block lately, and like my mom said yesterday in the way she always does when I’m feeling sorry for myself regarding my inadequacies, “SHIT, CAROLINE! JUST WRITE SOMETHING! WHO CARES WHAT IT IS?” She’s always had an uncanny way of pushing me beyond my comfort zone, much in the same way you always did when I would whine and feel sorry for myself for any reason. Perhaps that is how, over time, I grew to love you like family, and to see you as someone I admired and looked up to like a sister.

You were so much better than me at doing so many things. My God how I looked up to you:   on our runs, during our afternoon shenanigans while the kids roamed the yards with sticks and Nerf guns, and even in our disagreements. Thanksgiving is next week, and while we will be road tripping it to Saint Louis to visit my biological sister and her family, I know my heart will sink a little thinking about the past couple of Thanksgivings we spent with you and your family.

I can’t see signs for Natchez Trace anymore without thinking about the Thanksgiving we spent there in those rustic, old cabins. We had downed wine in red solo cups and gotten lost on what ended up being a 7 mile hike guided by the dog, both of us worried that we wouldn’t make it back in time to cook the damn turkey! We did, and afterwards we spent the rest of the evening carrying dishes back and forth between our two places while the kids ran in between. We watched the boys start a campfire and sat around it talking as we always did about politics, family, life, and religion. We were a pretty awesome clash of two tides: the Catholic democrats meet the republican Protestants, or, better yet, I was wondering if you have heard this joke lately:

“A Catholic and a Protestant walked into a bar…”

A couple of weeks ago we were stopped at a stop light in Franklin, Tenn. Thankfully all the kids were at school except for Anne who was riding in the front seat. A plumbing truck slowed down behind us and a huge, unsecured PVC pipe slid off the top of his truck and went through the rear windshield on the van. No one was hurt, thankfully, but when I got out of the car to assess the damage, I started crying. The outline of the window was all that remained and gone was the Natchez Trace sticker I bought at the visitor center that Thanksgiving. I hadn’t brought myself to chisel it off.

I will miss you this year, cool lady. I will miss so many things, like your amazing cooking that brought peace to my soul just as my grandmothers always did when I was growing up; you have always had a way of making home feel like home simply with the smells coming from your kitchen; those smells reminded me of all of the comforts of my childhood.

But what I’m certain I will miss the most is knowing that in just a few short months we will be welcoming our first little boy into the world, and knowing it is a moment I won’t be able to share with you. You won’t be there to correct me on how to change a boy’s diaper without him pissing all over my face. You won’t be there to tell me not to raise him to be a sissy by flattering him with compliments and tenderness, wiping his face and his boogers instead of letting him be. You won’t be there to tell me exactly what books I should read to him that will teach him all of the valuable lessons of boyhood with authors guiding the words in beautiful, timeless language.

After three girls, I’m certain there are a lot of things that will be very new and awkward, things that will make me feel insecure and inadequate. And in those moments I will miss you not being there to stop my whining to say, “SHIT, CAROLINE! JUST DO IT LIKE THIS!” I will miss the part of me that gets a little insecure feeling as though I may disappoint you in some way, but still wanting so much to impress you in the way little sisters often do. I will miss your guidance and the ability to become a little more capable and strong, yet again in different subtle ways, just from knowing you. But what I will miss the most is the fact that baby Joseph will not know the wonder of staring up at your four towering boys and admiring them in awe of their coolness.

I miss you, friend…cool lady…sister.

I’m so sorry for letting my ego get the best of me. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able in that moment last spring to shove it down and surrender to the fact that, instead of getting so utterly upset, I should have just said something more like this:

I admire you so much. The last thing I want to do is disappoint you in some way. Because, you see, even though we have our differences in so many ways, I grow so much in so many ways just by knowing you.

Thank you, sister, for everything,