There are still times when Claire looks at me and says, "Mama, I want to go back to Nashville." She misses her friends, her school, our house, the parks we used to visit. While she's also having a good time here, she is definitely feeling the loss of her first sense of place.
Her best friend there, Jordan, had been her friend since they learned to crawl. They were a perfect match: both adorable and precocious and very, very verbal. When the time came to move them up a room at the daycare, they always went together, because the teachers knew that one didn't do well without the other. They liked the same kind of play. They liked to argue and make up. They both tried to wear as much purple as possible. They were, at three years old, best friends.
One night last week Claire was having a particularly sentimental evening. She got out her photo album from Nashville and looked at all the pictures we took of her friends before we left. Ron was putting her to bed that night, and he came out after about 10 minutes and looked stressed. My husband is as even-keeled as they come, but Claire's laments about missing her friends were killing him. I had to take a turn.
Claire started in again with me about missing her friends. We talked about how our first and oldest friends are always special, but that we always have to make new friends, and those new friends are great too. We talked about the friends she's made here, and she begrudgingly acknowledged that they were pretty nice. But in her mind, no one would replace her old friends.
Sniffling, with big, tired eyes, she said to me, "Mama, my old friends were just right. They were just right for me."
And that? That was the sound of my heart breaking into a thousand pieces at her honesty, her insight, and her hurt.
In the last two months we've had visits from four families that are some of our oldest and dearest friends. One couple goes back to high school, and the others are from our time in Michigan during grad school and the early years of my career. We knew each other when we had zero kids, little money, fewer pounds and fewer wrinkles. While years sometimes pass between our visits, it doesn't take long to pick up again with conversations about stuff that matters.
At this point, I have more good friends in Pennsylvania and North Carolina and Texas than I do here. I'm meeting people, for sure, and already have a circle of folks that I call casual friends. But none of these people know my maiden name, or were bridesmaids in my wedding, or have seen me drunk or emotional (or both, as is sometimes the case). Phone calls and e-mails and the US Postal Service keep me in touch from a distance, but there are certain exchanges that can only happen in person, and part of me misses having those with each of my friends on a regular basis.
But the other part of me is thankful every day for the opportunity to have these people in my life, and I'll hold tight despite the frustrations of busy schedules and e-mails that don't get returned. Because Claire's observation is true: there are some friends that are "just right."