On friendship

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It’s been a fun summer spent with friends of every kind – some in books in far-off places, some animated in some of our new favorite movies, some with whom we dance during music class. Some with whom we love to swim or run or play or enjoy lunch. Part of the summer was spent making new friends. Even this weekend at the library Azalea pointed to a boy she’d never met and said “That’s my friend.” In raising Azalea, I’ve always encouraged her to make friends with people who seem fun or interesting to her, and I’ve never given her any indication that approaching unknown people might be intimidating. So whenever she wants to share something with another child, or make friends, or make sure an upset child is okay, I hold her hand and try my best to exude confidence, never letting on how terrified it makes me to approach people. My neuroses will never (fingers crossed) be her own. “Hi,” she says. “What’s your name?” or sometimes she opens with “My name’s Azalea.”

She’s better than I am in every way, I remind myself during my own internal battle of emotions of feeling somewhat friendless. It’s as if at some point, I went off like a bomb and blasted everyone close to me outside the blast radius. The picture of myself inside my head is of me standing alone in a circle, while a crowd friends looks in on me from a safe distance.

That’s not the way I ever want her to feel.

I’ve been pondering the concept of best friends lately. Maybe because I seem to be hyperaware of all the goings-on in my life down to the minute details and can recognize the absent space where a best friend or two used to be. Or maybe it’s because I’m hearing or reading the term “best friend” everywhere of late. It’s bombarding sometimes, and others, the words are merely whispered to me in the wind.

That day in the library, Azalea and I shared a cupcake. We hadn’t planned to end up in Sweetwater devouring a cupcake, but sometimes plans are a bust and so you walk hand-in-hand down the sidewalk in search of just the right afternoon treat. We giggled and told jokes and shared an iced tea and talked about our day. About how meeting Princess Elsa wasn’t any fun after all. About how long our hair has grown. About some of our new favorite books. About Poppy. About how our cupcake is brown, and brown is her favorite color. About how that’s one of the things I think is most interesting about her.

During all my saddest moments in the past two years, she’s been there. She’s penetrated the forcefield. She’s infiltrated my armor. She has seen me sad, but she mostly sees me at my best, because she makes me want to be my best. Maybe that’s what “best friend” really means

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_MG_6066_v1Maybe that blast radius isn’t as big as I imagine it to be. Or maybe, just maybe, she’s the one confidently walking through the dust to hold my hand. Because I’ve never made her leery of approaching people. “Are you okay, Mommy?”IMG_6179

This summer of swimming or shopping running wild through a field to save Judy Hopps has filled my head and my heart with the best memories of the best version of me. I promised myself when Azalea was born that I’d try my hardest to become the mom she deserves. And in so many ways, in all the things we’ve done, she’s been the one guiding me. Pulling me back to the present. Keeping my mind from wandering while we lie on our tummies on a rainy day and work on a jigsaw puzzle. This summer, I’ve learned an important lesson: see the flowers, not the weeds.

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And it turns out I have a pretty great best friend after all.

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