I didn't really want to join Facebook. Honestly, I didn't. I resisted and resisted and didn't understand what the big deal until finally, while working on a small blogging project with Weight Watchers I finally took the plunge. I told myself it would be good. Good for marketing because, apparently, when you write a book you cease being a person and become a brand. Your life becomes commerce.
That's the way it is with the internet, really, even if you don't have a book. You leave your mark everywhere you go. Everything you say and everything you do is somewhere. You can't really hide, even if you want to.
Despite this, I never, ever thought that in the very same month the girl who was my childhood best friend and the cousin who was my childhood pen-pal would find me on the internet.
The girl who I spent many an hour with, putting on make-up and talking about boys. The one I spent hours and hours with and I remember most vividly from my middle school years and all of those hours and hours and hours at the Mall. The girl with whom I watched Dirty Dancing and ate Little Caesars Pizza. The girl who I listened to 1980's hair bands with and traveled with...all the way to Omaha, Nebraska one summer. I remember we walked around the street in the evening. We shouldn't have been out. A car drove by and a guy leaned out his window and yelled at me, "YOU HAVE BIG BOOBS!" and I remember I said, "THANK YOU!" Because, really, when you are fifteen what the crap do you say to something like that?
The girl who shared all my secrets.
And the girl who would have been my best friend, if she were close by and not a million miles away in Michigan (it's a million miles away when you are a kid and have no car, I think). The girl who is related to me because our fathers are cousins. The girl I saw maybe once a year at a family reunion in the middle of nowhere. The girl who I would labor over letters for. I still remember her handwriting. Even her handwriting was fun.
I don't even remember why we started talking for the first time. Logically, I suppose, we were the two girls at the family reunion around the same age. I try to remember if my other cousins, my first cousins, were there. I imagine they were, but they weren't like us. They liked boys long before we did and they didn't read books the way we did (and oh, how obsessed we were). They wore bikinis and make-up and we didn't.
We talked. In the absence of that, we wrote.
I lost both of them over the years, for different reasons. My childhood friend and I grew apart as we got older. She had a baby and I was a baby. I was still a baby years later when I had my own babies. I don't know how she survived, as young as she was. She and I had a fight over something. What it was, I have no idea. We didn't talk for a few years and then, right before our Senior year of high school she called me and said, "I miss you".
I missed her too, even though things had changed. And they had changed. I had a 21 year old boyfriend, for one, and I thought he was going to swoop in and save my life.
I was different.
Around that time was the last time I saw my cousin as well. I remember the last family reunion I saw her at. The aforementioned boyfriend was with me and, sadly, he had very limited social graces. We didn't really get to talk and eventually I stopped going to family reunions. I had work, I had school...there was always something. The boyfriend's face faded away and was replaced by a husband who had no interest in family; not his, not mine, and, as it turns out, not ours.
Years have passed. A lot of years.
I'm different now too.
It doesn't matter though. We all are. My cousin is married and has a daughter of her own. My friend has three boys...not little boys, big boys. Her little sister, who I used to carry around, has two little girls and a husband. We're all grown-up's now.
But what matters are the ways we are the same.
How my cousin still loves to read just like me. We still write, except now it's emails and, for both of us, books. How I feel like I can talk to her about anything at all and she will not only understand it, she will get it (and there is a huge difference. Trust me). How I feel, sometimes, like she is the reason that I belong in my family. That even if I never understand where I come from, I can look at her and think, "I belong. I fit here". Even if I fit nowhere else in this world.
My friend is still the same sweet soul. Still the same person who loves so fiercely. Still makes me laugh with her brutal honesty and her open, candid heart. As a child I always wanted to protect her from the things I thought would ruin her life, but now as an adult I see that all those things have shaped her into the wonderful woman she is today. How, if she didn't have those life experiences, she wouldn't be who she is. And what a tragedy that would be for everyone who loves her.
I'm growing up. I'm becoming something. I'm not sure what yet, but it's something.
I'm moving ahead. I'm looking behind.