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A FRIENDSHIP'S CHANGE
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THE LOSS OF A FRIENDSHIP Jeannine Brenner
"What was I doing here," I asked myself as I trudged self-consciously behind a group of laughing, thirteen year old girls on our way to school. My parents had just moved to this town and I was miserable. I hated leaving my friends, my old school, and the house that had been home from the day I was born. Living in town and walking to school was strange and I longed for the familiarity of school busses on country roads. I was lonely and unhappy. When I finally found my classroom, I quickly took a seat and looked around. There was a skinny little girl in the front row. She was wearing the standard bobby socks and saddle shoes of the fifty's, and tortoise shelled cat-eyed glasses. Her brown hair was tightly curled, and she had on a blue knit dress. She looked at me briefly but made no eye contact, and then turned back to her book. This was my first impression of Jane on that first wretched day of the new school.
However, by the middle of the year, Jane and I became fast friends. In our high school years we did homework, school projects, and term papers together, made our own clothes, went to youth group, sat beside each other at football games, had great shopping excursions, talked for hours on the phone, shared secrets, giggled endlessly, had countless sleepovers, and even double dated. Her home was my home and vice versa. We were inseparable and the loneliness of that first day was a faint memory of the past.
As seniors, we both enrolled in the state teachers college as roommates, and had the same group of friends who would go to dances, basketball games, and ice skating on the pond. We studied together and discussed our plans and dreams for the future. By our second year we were both dating the men we would eventually marry, and that Christmas Jane proudly displayed an engagement ring. Anxious to join her fiancé stationed in Japan, Jane graduated in three years and was married in the fall of her last year. I happily did my maid of honor duties and cheerfully helped her pack her trunk for Japan, but I knew my senior year would be lonely without my best friend.
Upon graduation I began my teaching career and also married my college sweetheart. Although I was disappointed that Jane could not be my matron of honor, she found a way to be a part of my wedding by surprising me with a bridal shower at her mother's home with, all planned from Japan - including the invitations, favors, and decorations. When she and her husband returned from overseas she took a teaching position in the same school where I taught kindergarten, and it was great to see each other every day again, and to swap stories about our classes at the end of the day. Our husbands soon became good friends, and the four of us often had dinner, went to football games, or got together with friends.
By the end of the following year I was pregnant and quit my job to become a stay at home mother. I hated giving up teaching, but Jane's excitement over my pregnancy was contagious. She had a mini dinner shower and I received my first baby gifts. Always more organized than I, Jane and her husband began building their dream house that year in our home town, five minutes away from where my husband and I were living, and before long I was expecting again and so was she. Together we sowed maternity dresses, read Dr. Spock, and decorated nurseries. Our baby girls were born three months apart.
Since neither of us was teaching full time, we had plenty of time to compare childrearing notes on the phone, go shopping again, arrange play dates, take the children to the pool, and join old friends for luncheons and coffee hours. We were both substituting and exchanged babysitting, as well as books and recipes. We talked daily. It was like having a sister, with our children playing together while we chatted. We knew each other's schedules perfectly, and our spouses knew they could depend on each of us to know the whereabouts of their mates. Those were happy times for all of us. I loved her home - sitting on her patio in the summer and toasting marshmallows in their fireplace in winter.
Our families celebrated holidays and special occasions with dinners, parties, and cook-outs. We went camping and to the shore together. When the girls went to school, we both returned to teaching and it became a daily occurrence to get together for a cup of tea after school. My kitchen was quiet and cozy in the late afternoon, and there we shared our joys, sorrows, and frustrations with children, spouses, and school. The friendship was rich and rewarding. Jane was my dearest friend and knew me better than I knew myself, better than my husband, my parents, or my children knew me.
Time sped by and before we knew it, we were empty nesters. Life was changing for both of us, and in my heart I felt God directing me to the ordained ministry. Throughout the rigorous ordination process, Jane was an enthusiastic supporter. My first appointment came while I was in seminary, and since we continued to live in our home, we still saw each other often. However, the joint family parties, cookouts, and vacations were now a thing of the past, and our teaching interests were no longer holding us together. The ministry was new and demanding, and although we were both busy, we were no longer busy doing the same things.
After I was ordained, I was appointed to a church about sixty miles from our home town, and on the day of my ordination Jane told me they were also moving. I was shocked. I loved our home town and expected to retire there in a few years. I never dreamed Jane would not be there. In the beginning we met weekly for lunch, and those lunches were a priority in my schedule. They were a time to catch up and a safe place to vent my frustration over the stress of ministry and the changes in my life. But as time went on, the lunches became less frequent. Jane helped with the care of her grandson and I was serving two churches.
When I was finally appointed to a pretty little country church my work load was lighter, and since we were now in the same county, it should have been easier for us to connect, but I began to realize that we no longer shared as we once had. Nevertheless I was totally unprepared for her sudden announcement one night that they were buying a house in Maine. Maine!! I knew they thought Maine was beautiful, but I could not understand how they could leave their roots - their family, their friendships, and all that had been their life - to live fourteen hours away. I was heartsick. I could not believe she was leaving permanently, and I knew I would miss her tremendously.
Although they urged us to visit, shortly after their move my husband had one stroke and then a second massive stroke. He was confined to a wheel chair, and the friend I had always depended upon was gone. I realized how far apart our lives had become when she continued to press us to make the trip. How little she knew about the brain damage he had suffered and the care he needed! When I thought of how close we had once been, how well we had known each other, it hurt to think about what I had lost, and I was saddened that we had grown so far apart.
After my husband passed away, I did get to Maine, and I fervently hoped that this visit would help us reconnect and share as we once had. But our time was filled with sightseeing activities with little opportunity for one on one alone time. When I got home, I asked myself how we drifted so far apart. We were such great friends. And God answered with the words from Ecclesiastics 3:1, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." Time makes changes, and as much as we would like to turn back the clock, it can't be done. Jane and I both have new friendships to fill the void. God gave us the gift of a deep friendship for a certain time in our lives. It was a great blessing and I thank God for that gift.
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