Friends of ours are moving away on Friday. While my first instinct in these situations is to cross my arms, dig in my heals, stick out my lower lip, and refuse to enable yet another departure of people we like and haven’t had nearly enough time with, the adult in me eventually regains control, offering assistance in whatever way I can provide it.
This week that means lots of extra playtime for Aidan with his bestest of best friends, Charlotte. Her little brother will be joining us this afternoon as well, while Van, the harried mom who is one wrong look away from losing it (a PCS state of being I am all too familiar with), gets her house clean, suitcases organized, and finds a new place to stay after a surprise hotel cancellation left them sleeping on a borrowed air mattress in the middle of their empty house last night.
I am well-practiced in the art of saying goodbye. I have to be with this highly-transient lifestyle. Sometimes, it isn’t goodbye so much as, see you at another base somewhere down the line, as is the case with several of my friends in Hawaii, originally met during different assignments. Mostly though, the personal relationships I develop are carried forward through Facebook, Christmas cards, and the occasional email or text, just checking in.
As Aidan gets older, he is developing friendships on his own, outside of the playdates I set up for him with moms I like who happen to have kids his age. He established connections in Charlottesville that I’m still hearing about (Will the real “My Corey” please stand up?) but not necessarily local friends solely of his own choosing. Hawaii has been different.
While riding to school earlier this week, Aidan announced, in a sad little voice from the backseat : Mama, Charlotte moves on Friday. Mama, when Charlottes leaves I’m going to be sad. I’d been expecting this and replied in my most sympathetic voice: I know, Honey. It’s okay to sad. I’m going to be sad too. We can be sad together. What I wasn’t expecting was his response: Mama, I’m not going to have any friends ever again.
And with that, the mundanity of our morning commute became a minefield to navigate, simultaneously trying to safely traverse the road while reassuring my 3-year-old son that life was not over. That there would be other friends, now and later. That different friends make us happy in different ways. That it is okay to be sad when parting with one friend, just as it is okay to delight in a new friendship made.
I wanted, more than anything, to pull that car over and gather Aidan to me in the most giant of giant bear hugs. I would have too,if there had been a good place to do it. Instead, I had to wait seven agonizing minutes until we pulled into the school’s parking lot. Seven minutes that tore me up. Seven minutes during which I silently cursed the military, Reagan’s job, the general unfairness of life, the specific unfairness of Aidan suffering needlessly. I mourned the friends I’ve had to leave, wallowed in self-pity, cried a few tiny tears, wished things could be another way, and, then, looked around, first in accusation, then in wonder.
We live in an amazing place, surround by friends and friends we have not met yet. We live here because of the military, because of Reagan’s job, because of the general unfairness of life. And while it is true neither Aidan or I will ever be able to point to someone and say, I’ve spent my whole life growing up next to this friend, what we lack in depth, we make up for in breadth.
I am so thankful for the friends I’ve met and the ones I’ve yet to meet. I am thankful for this beautiful, challenging life we lead. I’m thankful that, even though Aidan is experiencing his first real loss with the departure of Charlotte, he has a mama who is uniquely qualified to help him with his grief. Whose arms and body are just the right size to wrap around him and tuck him in tight. Who can hold him, comfort him, kiss him, and, when he’s ready, will let him jump back down to the pavement to race off in search of his friends. And there they will be, different friends who make him happy in different ways, but friends all the same.