There are a few things in this life you’ll only ever have one of: a first date, a first love, a first kiss. One mom, one dad. Oh, okay, Heather has two mommies. But you know what I mean.
After my childhood best friend, Mia, and I drifted apart in our mid to late teens, I sort of expected another best friend forever would come along. It took me a long while to figure out that there would never be another Mia. I want to tell you about her.
I was eight and mom had brought Mikey and me from Fresno back to her childhood home of Little Rock, Arkansas, to be closer to her dad and step-mom. My dad had been dead for two years.
We moved in late summer or early autumn. I still remember the smell in the air. Fresno had smelled like dust and deodar trees. Arkansas smelled like wet fallen leaves.
I came home from school one day to find Mikey on our porch counting out Halloween candy with a small girl his age (about 18 months younger than I). She had brown eyes, a turned up little nose and long, brown hair. I felt a pang of jealousy as I made my way past them into the house. Mikey had a new friend from the neighbourhood.
Mia and I became best friends. She spent lots of time at my house, I spent lots of time at her house. Every day one of us would call the other on the phone. I remember that I didn’t ask whether she wanted to get together that day, rather, “what do you want to do today?” Together was a given.
Mia’s mom and my mom became good friends, too. Terri would come over and have drinks and snacks with my mom. They sat on bar stools and talked. Mom always peeled and cut up carrot sticks and put them in a boat-shaped dish in ice water.
Mia and I went through so many things together, including losing her dad. We sometimes had terrible fights. I still wince to remember the time I bit her…and I mean HARD… on the upper arm.
Of the two of us, Mia was the cute one. I had to get used to the fact that when a really hot boy from school or from our neighbourhood wanted to talk to me, it would be to ask me, “do you think Mia likes me?” That was okay, though.
Mia came from a large family. She had three brothers and a sister, all older. There were always lots of dogs and cats and other pets at Mia’s house. That was a big family in my eyes, anyway.
When we were growing up and growing apart, I remember one day Mia told me that one reason she was distancing herself from me was that it was too painful to watch what I was doing to myself.
“What am I doing?” I wondered. Yeah, I knew. But I could only bring my head up out of my thick cloud of denial for a split second every few years. Those were the days when I would sleep with anything that moved. I drank a lot. I used to get drunk at lunch recess and be drunk during English. Where did a 15-year-old girl get booze? My step father bought it for me and for my friends.
It’s sometimes hard to look back at those days and see how carelessly I handled my own life. I was so full of anger and despair, so lost. I was turning all my destructive energy toward myself. It was like a game of Russian roulette. Instead of a gun with one bullet in the chamber, I had unprotected sex with people I didn’t know. I drank myself into a stupor in alleys with homeless people. I walked alone through dangerous streets late, late at night. If a questionable character bade me follow him inside his house, I went. That is the Kelly Mia last knew, I suppose.
Mia’s twin older brothers were both Jehovah’s Witnesses, as were their wives. At some point after we became young adults, I got word through somebody that Mia had also become a Jehovah’s Witness. And so each year I would remember, “hey, this week is Mia’s birthday!” And I’d consider dropping her a card in the mail. But then I’d remember that JWs don’t celebrate birthdays or any other holidays. So I wouldn’t.
I had other close girlfriends. But it was never the same. Like I said, I had trouble accepting that I would never have that again with any female friend…that closeness and trust and wanting to be together so much. Whenever I met someone who was still close to a childhood best friend, there was a pang in my heart. Whenever I met someone who got along really well with a sister, it was as if the void standing next to me was tangible. A ghost stood there where Mia used to be.
She’d gone on to marry and have a baby. We didn’t even live in the same part of town, so I never ran into her at the grocery store. I sometimes saw her older sister with her two beautiful girls in the grocery store. “Tell Mia I said hi when you see her,” was the most I could manage.
Then when I was working as office manager at WordsWorth in Little Rock, there was this one day when Vic Snyder wanted to order a book from us, have it sent to Washington D.C. His assistant was on the phone and gave me her name.
“VALERIE?” It was Mia’s eldest brother’s ex wife. “This is Kelly, Mia’s friend Kelly!” Wow. We spent the next ten minutes or so catching up on each other’s news. I asked about Mia. Valerie said Mia would love to hear from me, so I got her phone number, wrote it on a scrap of paper. Valerie said she wasn’t JW anymore.
I never did call. I don’t think I even managed to keep up with the piece of paper. But I kept thinking about it.
Another time Valerie and I spoke by phone and again, I asked about Mia and got some contact info…found out where she was working. I should stop in, say hi, Valerie urged me. I said I would, but knew I probably wouldn’t. I was feeling shy and unsure. We probably didn’t have anything in common anymore. Maybe I should just let things lie, hold on to my precious memories.
This year, on Mia’s birthday, I thought about her. I wanted to send her a birthday card. Though it has been seven or so years since I last spoke to Valerie, I knew she’d still be working for Vic Snyder. So I sent an email to Snyder’s office in Washington D.C. with subject line, “FOR VALERIE.” I asked Valerie for Mia’s email address. Valerie was happy to hear from me and we caught up on each other’s lives. Valerie read my blog.
I did send an email to Mia.
She wrote me back. We’ve exchanged photos and several long emails now. She’s happily married with two boys. Her older boy is 20, almost as old as Mia was the last time I saw her.
I was so excited to get news of Mia and her life, I called my mom to give a big report. “Mom, Mia’s older boy is TWENTY.”
I paused for effect.
“MOM, if I’d had kids, they could be that old right now. You could have a grandchild who was TWENTY.”
My mom was doing a lot of verbal nodding. I guess the math wasn’t as impressive to her as it was to me.
“MOM, you could have been a great grandmother by now!”
“Your aunt Pat is a great grandmother,” she reminded me.
Tonight I got another email from Mia. We’ve been comparing notes on our pets and love for animals. She wrote–at the bottom of her email, “I’m so glad you’re back in my life.”
All I can do is sit here and cry.
Mo wondered ‘what next?’ after Farsi school and the lifting of the paraphilia. I said it felt like I was now in about my mid to late teens.
And now Mia is back in my life, having departed when I was about 17.
Violet has come into my life, as well. I remember when Violet and I started hanging out together… I thought to myself that maybe it can happen twice in one lifetime. I feel with Violet the way I felt with Mia when I was 11 and she was 9. “Call your mom and see if you can spend the night!” I still remember her phone number.
I don’t know, people. These are all just puzzle pieces. It feels like I’ve been handed these incredible gifts of late.
Yes, I have.