A Thank You Letter to The Mother of a Childhood Friend
Last week, a dear friend of mine from childhood texted me to let me know that her mother had died. I’d known her – and, by extension, her mother – since I was in the third grade. During our awkward, formative years my friend and I and a cadre of other girls (equally nerdy and well-behaved, for the most part) were positively inseparable. We spent the night at one another’s houses, spent countless afternoons together at band or soccer practice. We went through braces and bad perms and the first pangs of heartache together.
I learned last year that her mother was sick with cancer; our friend was good about keeping us all informed. We were well aware that her mom’s health was declining, but I still found the news of her death to be strange and shocking and incomprehensible.
I can’t imagine what my friend is going through.
I remember the last time I saw her mother, on a sweltering Florida evening. They both seemed oblivious to the heat, but after twenty odd years in the Pacific Northwest, I could no longer handle it. We ate at a heavily-air-conditioned Chinese restaurant, and I when I went for the bill her mother told me, “Don’t even think about it.”
I laughed and relented.
She told me she was excited about my blog, and excited about my husband, and she seemed genuinely and truly happy at how I turned out.
Reflecting on that, I realized something: while it happens rarely, we do take the occasion, on birthdays or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, to thank our parents for everything that they did for us.
But we don’t do the same for the parents of our friends.
Since her the celebration of her life is currently happening down in Florida, I figured it would be apropos to take a moment to acknowledge all the stuff she did for not only her daughter, but her daughter’s friends.
To the mother of a childhood friend,
Thank you, for endless rides to and from my house, and to and from your house, and for shuttling us to soccer games and the movie theater and the mall and the roller rink and to band recitals and wherever else we’d convinced you we absolutely needed to go. Childhood can be claustrophobic; you made the world a little bit bigger for us.
Thank you for feeding me breakfast and lunch and dinner and sometimes all three because I would not leave your house.
Thank you for making us – awkward and silly and too smart for our own good – feel special and worthwhile and welcome in your home.
Thank you for never thinking we needed to dumb ourselves down or change who we were to be valued.
Thank you for treating us with the same care and love and intolerance for bullshit that you showed your daughter.
Thank you for playing board games with us and never giving us the impression that you were letting us win, because, frankly, we never actually won.
I am sorry I peed in your pool that one time. (Maybe it was two times.)
Thank you for always asking your daughter about how I was doing.
Thank you for never automatically taking sides on those rare occasions when she and I fought.
Thank you for never labeling me as a bad influence, even though I swore like a sailor and was basically feral.
Thank you for never putting down my single, divorced, and utterly foreign mother. I know she was radically different from a lot of the other moms. Thank you for never pointing that out.
Thank you for listening to the grievances we had about growing up. Thank you for understanding that being 11 years old can sometimes be agony.
Thank you for maintaining an utterly neutral expression when I showed up at your house with a bowl haircut. I think you said it “wasn’t that bad.” That remains one of the kindest things anyone’s ever said about that particularly disastrous decision.
Thank you for taking me with you to that one Disney resort to celebrate your daughter’s birthday. It remains one of the most luxurious memories I have of childhood. Twenty years later, it still feels like magic.
Thank you for renting us countless movies starring Jeff Goldblum and for never drawing attention to the uncontrollable giggles that came out of the living room as we watched them.
Thank you for not pointing out that Earth Girls Are Easy is a really terrible, terrible film.
Thank you for driving us to see Jurassic Park an estimated 13 times.
Thank you for taking us to see that play that one time. I don’t really remember what it was called, only that I felt so mature and so cultured. (That’s not a feeling that you get very often when growing up in Nowhere, Florida.)
Thank you for letting us stay up late and sleep in. Thank you for letting us wake up to the smell of breakfast.
Thank you for the boundless patience that you displayed with children who weren’t even yours.
Thank you for setting an excellent example of what grace under pressure was.
Thank you for raising my friend. And for helping to raise all of us.
We’ll miss you.