When I was in elementary school, I lived for summer afternoons with my best friend. We doted on our Breyer horses, watched television shows we probably weren’t supposed to, and grazed constantly from a giant yellow bag of Peanut M&M’s. Many days our parents would take us to the neighborhood pool, where we proudly sported jellies on our feet and a sense of summer freedom in our hearts.
When the whistle sounded for adult swim—the last ten minutes of every hour, which I used to think was too long and now realize was entirely too short—my friend and I headed over to the vending machines to make our snack selections. I fed the vending machine green dollar bills and in return, it fed me Oats n’ Honey bars. My beverage of choice was always an ice cold Dr. Pepper, beads of sweat condensing on the maroon can. I loved hearing the carbonated crrrrack! when I popped it open, and my friend and I loved trying to guess the 23 flavors.
During those endless pool days she and I held a caucus of two, discussing such important matters as horses, boys, and homework. I wore one side of a metallic heart around my neck that read Best; hers read Friend. We became inseparable, and remained that way for the majority of our childhood. We rode horses together, had countless sleepovers, snuck out to parties (shh, don’t tell!) and blended into each other’s families as honorary children. It was a friendship that became as familiar to me as air—always there giving me life, though I rarely considered its importance.
When I look back, I feel so grateful that our friendship endured for so many of our formative years—the innocence of elementary school, the awkwardness of middle school, and the rebelliousness of high school. It was a safe harbor as we navigated the choppy waters of braces, broken hearts, and coming of age. In many ways, it felt like home to me.
Time did its inevitable work of change in our lives, and my childhood best friend and I grew up and grew apart. It was a slow drift, nothing malicious or intentional. Some days I wonder if I didn’t work hard enough to keep our relationship alive into adulthood. Other days I try to accept the fact that maybe some friendships simply have expiration dates, like those tasty Oats n’ Honey bars in their shiny green wrappers.
I used to be someone who wanted every single friendship to Work. By that I mean: if we weren’t going to be roommates in an independent living facility at the age of 85, it wasn’t worth my time. I believe deeply in close friendships, and I have a few of them today that are utterly invaluable to me—pure gold. I know they require effort, perseverance, and intentionality. But something I’m learning (grappling with, really) as an adult is that not every friendship goes through the furnace of life and emerges as gold.
Every friendship, now matter how long or short lived, is a gift and has something to teach us if we let it. Some will last forever, spanning decades of tears and texts and triumphs. Some, though, are as ephemeral as those childhood pool days—lasting only for a season, but still as sweet as summer.