How do I explain to my four-year-old son that his best friend is moving away? I've spoken the words, but the insistent way he asked to go over to the friend's house reminded me that CJ has no concept for how final this will be. His first real, good, friend moving to Colorado with possibly just weeks left to let them play together.
I tried explaining that we would go visit, but it would be very far away like when we went up to see cousins for Christmas. I suggested that we could call them on mommy's computer like we did when I went to stay with my mom after Christmas and I would talk to them on facetime each night. He stared at me, not getting it, for he knows the route to their house and he knows their bright blue car and crazy mommy doesn't know what she is talking about.
Oh how I wish that were true. My first friend to move was a little Japanese girl whose house I invaded every afternoon until it was time for her math lessons. We would make origami animals. I kept a whole shelf of them. After she moved I would keep walking, or riding, farther down the road to the twins' house. Their dad was a cop and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. But when I would ride my bike by my friend's house I would think about her. Sometimes I would find the remnants of a paper animal and wonder what she was doing.
Then I moved. And oh my how much harder that was. That I too was a twin was the grace of God for if I had to go into that school not knowing another face I likely would have burst into tears. But there beside me, was my twin brother. And that first day I met a beautiful girl with long, honey hair and Converse tennis shoes. I liked her immediately. That never happens. Usually people orbit around me for years with me whacking at them with a stick and only the tenacious ones ever make it in.
Practically attached to her, like a two-for-one-friend-set was a short, curly red head. Who I just visited this Christmas, with her kids playing happily around us and another collected-along-the-way friend beside me. We laughed. Three woman who used to be girls together, and it was glorious.
When college came around I decided to transfer after my freshmen year and move to Texas. In my lonely little dorm room I prayed for a friend, and I swear I'm not making this up, before I had even truly finished in bounded one of the best friends of my life. Her black, curly hair in pig tails and the warmest smile on her face.
This friend moved close to ten years ago, to California of all places, and true to form I can't truly let her 'go.' We talk, text and chat online pretty regularly still. But it sucks. And it's not the same. Right now, as she goes through her grandmother passing away, I want nothing more than to be rich enough to fly out there and just sit. Maybe make some awful white-girl muffins that would taste nothing like one of the creations her Peruvian grandmother could have made. But it would have been better than 'hang in there' text messages.
Goodbye suck. That's what I want to tell CJ. They suck and they are inevitable. We just can't hang on to everyone we let in, even if we are extremely selective with that and seem to think our small handful of closest friends and loved ones should simply be safe because it's a numbers game, right? I want to tell him that yes we can visit but truthfully it will just never be the same. I want to curl myself around him and make a force field so he doesn't have to feel this pain, when he finally realizes that his friend is gone and that is what the awful word 'moving' means.
But. I also want to tell him that when there is a goodbye, painful as it likely will be, there is usually a hello that shortly follows. While I love my honey-haired friend I also love my black-haired one as well. And I would have never met the latter if I hadn't said goodbye to the former. It's just physics. Missouri and Texas can't be in the same space-time continuum without stuff going really, really bad.
If pressed to have not had to say a goodbye, realizing it would likely mean I would get to say a later hello, I don't know that I would have chosen any differently. I often think of how hard it was to leave the Midwest and come down here alone to start my life but here is where the love of my life was. Here is where I got to meet my wonderful children. Had I been stuck in not wanting to say another goodbye I have no idea what that life would look like but I daresay it wouldn't be one that I would like as much as this one.
I hope to pass on to CJ my sense that friends are friends forever, even if they move halfway across the country. But I also want to encourage him that the gracious Lord I know will not leave a little boy friendless. And the new hellos that are coming might just be worth this little bit of pain now. In the meantime I might just make some muffins, pull up a chair beside him and wait through the hard. Wait and pray for a swiftly coming 'hello' of a friend who will stick by him for life.