I met Cindy my first day of junior high. She sat at the same lunch table as I did that day. It didn’t take us long to start hanging out at each other’s houses — in fact, her father, who was a 6th grade teacher dropped her off at my house each morning and we’d walk to school together. Then each afternoon we’d walk back to my house and spend the afternoon together before her dad picked her up after work.
Cindy’s mom was a vegetarian. The only vegetarian I’d ever met. Her father wasn’t. They lived in the country in an arts and crafts style bungalow on 13 acres they called Walden Oaks. They had a potbelly stove in their living room and Cindy always smelled of woodsmoke. She had long, black curly hair, huge eyes and a large smile. We were inseparable in junior high.
We continued our friendship into high school, but in our junior year Cindy’s father decided to take a sabbatical the following year and spend it in Spain with Cindy and her mother. That meant that Cindy would need to graduate a year early. She seemed to change that year. She spent more time with seniors and less time with me. Our friendship was strained as it was — the old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt” proved true in our case. I think we’d spent so much time together the first few years of knowing each other, that we got to know each other too much — almost like sisters, I suppose. I remember being jealous of her grades — I guess I thought I was the smarter of the two of us and when she got better grades than I did, I got angry. My temper was easily roused back then, and there were times when Cindy egged me on just to see me get angry — she admitted it years later.
The summer of our junior year, I went to England and she stayed to finish up high school, then she left for Spain with her parents. We kept in touch through letters — but Cindy was not much of a letter writer. When she returned from Spain, she was no longer Cindy. She was Cynthia.
At some point, when I went to England, Cynthia stayed a few weeks with my parents. I think she must have been in college, because she was learning about ecology (she went to the College of the Atlantic) and unplugged my Mickey Mouse night-light because she said it wasted electricity.
We kept in touch for a few years, but lost touch after a while. I think the real reason we lost touch was because I didn’t send her a card or gift when her daughter, Claire, was born. It was not Cynthia who quit writing then — it was I. I was envious that she had a child and I didn’t — and thought I wouldn’t have children. Then when I finally did have child, I named her Clare, and was afraid Cynthia would be offended.
Cynthia was also extremely eco-conscious. I’m not sure she and her family had a television, much less a VHS player. We had a couple televisions and probably didn’t always turn out the lights when we should have. I was ashamed.
I kept up on her life through her dad, who wrote me each Christmas until the year before he died. I didn’t know he’d died until a couple of years later when my sister-in-law told me. I was a little miffed that Cindy hadn’t told me herself, but, I guess, by then, she must have figured our friendship had ended.
I did find Cindy/Cynthia via email and we wrote back and forth once. Then we found each other on Facebook and wrote back and forth a bit, but have not written anything in a while.
People change — friendships come and go. I’m not the same person I was when I was in junior high and neither is Cindy/Cynthia. Why can’t I let go? Just because we were best friends 35 years ago doesn’t mean we still should be. However, it would be nice to see her again, you know?