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Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Tribute to Childhood Friendship

From the time they were old enough to talk, “Jay-ub” and “Meee-umm” were the best of buddies. More than once we heard that the two had to be separated in the nursery for fighting. They grieved the separation far more than the wounds inflicted.

“Miriam, will you play nice at nursery today?” we would ask each week.

“Oh, yes!” was her happy reply.

“Miriam, are you going to hit Jacob?”

“Oh, YES!”

And so it went. A rough-and-tumble fellowship of diaper-clad tots, each able to take it on the chin and come up smiling.

Then came the dreadful announcement about two years ago that Jacob’s family would be moving away. How much can a three-year-old really understand about the depths of friendship and the loss of it?

I daresay the answer is that the understanding runs deeper than we give them credit for.

I will never forget the going-away gathering our church held for the Caines family that summer. While the adults and older kids were providing the audience for a series of amateur performances—skits, poetry readings, sing-alongs—to honor and “roast” the family, little Jacob got up, walked across in front of the entire group, and held out his pudgy little hand to Miriam. No words were said, but she just extended her own tiny hand to take his, and the two left the room together. Both smiling sweetly at each other, he led her down the hall and into the nursery playroom. We all watched them go, and I found myself thinking, “I wonder if he’ll come back for her again just that way in another 15-20 years.”

This weekend, we were blessed with a too-short visit while Sarah and the kids were traveling through.

Miriam, now five, got dressed three times in anticipation of seeing her friend again. First, she chose a casual but nice outfit. That lasted about a half hour. She then decided that she wanted to “look pretty for Jacob,” and so she changed into a lovely dress and had me braid her hair. For the next hour, that was satisfactory, but Miriam will be Miriam. Just before time to leave to meet them, she rushed to her room once more and came out in old jean shorts and a shirt reserved for crafts and gardening, unmatched socks, and her old sneakers. With her chin held high, she announced, “I changed my mind. I want to play HARD!”

That’s my girl. Don’t miss out on life by trying to impress with beauty that is passing. Remember to “play HARD!”

It was so good to see our friends again, and to see “Jay-ub” and “Meee-ummm” still friends, though maybe not quite as focused on each other as they were at one time. I know the day is coming when he’ll likely find girls icky and want to surround himself only with other little boys. My mother’s heart hurts a little thinking ahead to that, but I would venture that with a little more time passing, he’ll likely get over that and come to his senses again.

They say that true friends can always pick right back up where they left off, no matter how much time passes between them. I know that to be the case in my own experience. And a part of me is really hoping it will be that way for them, too.

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