friends forever?

the ties that bind

I

have been thinking about our world without us.

When I was a kid, we moved around a lot. Every 18 months or so, our family would pack up and go where the government sent us. There were mid-year moves and summertime moves. We made it as far north as Omaha, Neb., and once and as far west as Alamogordo, N.M., when I was very small. I didn’t know it until I had made my move into adulthood, but I had come to think of those years of practice at making transitions between places and people a gift. As an adult, I could chase promising opportunities that took me to new places because I knew I could make a life wherever I landed.

I’d done it before.

Then, last summer, Roy watched as his favorite friend moved away from him. It was disorienting to watch my son mourn the loss of his quiet companion largely because it was nearly unprecedented in my own experience. I was the one who left my friends wherever I might have made them and, sure, it was sad to varying degrees depending on how old I was at the time, but I had momentum on my side, the energy that comes with movement and new vistas. Roy, on the other hand, had a hole in his life where his friend used to be while everything else remained utterly unchanged.

As my children grow, I watch them build attachments that I never had at their age. I look up from doing one thing or another and see the face of one of their friends again, a face that I’ve been looking at for years, since kindergarten or before. I wonder what my children have come to signify in these other small lives, as well—Scott and I, too, for that matter.

It was disorienting to watch my son mourn the loss of his friend largely because it was nearly unprecedented in my own experience.

Yesterday, a child stumbled out of my house yelling, ‘Love you!’ as they went, sweetly confused by the net of familiarity that links her life to ours. And no more than an hour later, Roy came home wearing a friendship bracelet carried back from Senegal by a school friend. Somewhere in the back of my head, there was a high little song being sung that went something like, ‘Don’t get too attached!’ I can’t tell you who I was singing it to, though—me or the children.

Scott and I have begun discussing switching cars in the fall, once the triple-digit heat retreats. The larger car can go with him to work, I said, and I will drive the smaller one, the one with the broken air conditioning, when doing so will be easier on The Three.

“I’m sure the heat bothers them less than it does us,” Scott opined, adding, “they’re New Mexicans.”

There’s no arguing about that. I wonder if they could be something else if they were called upon to do so, though, or if all of the sun and our stasis—our stability, really—have altered them on a cellular level, rendering them unfit to live somewhere under a grey sky, wet to the bone and buried under a blanket of green. And, for the first time, I find myself asking myself what the hole we would leave might look like from the perspective of those from whom we’ve departed.