The Girl Down the Street
Post by Randee Bergen (www.randeebergen.wordpress.com)
We had a girl down the street.
We got to know this girl almost immediately upon moving into our new home. My daughters met her at the school bus stop and then Addy saw her later that morning in her high school photography class. A quick friendship between the three ensued.
A girl down the street is a special type of friend. You may not call her your best friend, but she’s your most often friend, due to proximity and being privy to what your family is up to. She’s not always the first choice on who to hang out with, but she’s always there, a reliable fallback. She’s enthusiastic, polite, and appreciative of being included. And you enjoy her company, so much so that you can accept her presence for a long period of time. The girl down the street is always welcome in your home; in fact, when she enters, you holler her name, like “Norm!” on Cheers. You feed her and expect her to rinse her dirty dishes. You tuck her in and check on her in the morning. She becomes another daughter, a sister, a somewhat permanent fixture.
Until she moves. On unclear grounds.
Our girl was a marching band girl. My own girls are not marching band girls so I was happy to have one to support, to cheer on. I got the inside scoop on the doings of the marching band and attended the battle of the bands and an extra football game or two. I took our girl to the battle, made sure she got some lunch between competitions, and picked her up when she texted me, stranded at the football field after a ride from a friend fell through. I posted pictures of her on Facebook, just as I would have done with my own daughters.
Our girl joined us for pizza nights, bike rides, family game nights, and camping trips. She got read y for the Homecoming dance here and was in all of our photos. We took a last minute drive to Arches National Park one Saturday (about an hour and a half away) and our girl came along. She had never been to Arches. Heck, she’d never been to Utah.
But then the news. She was moving to Washington to live with her dad. I didn’t understand why our girl would move just before her senior year of high school. But I didn’t pry, didn’t want to put her in the awkward position of explaining. Perhaps she couldn’t have anyway. Things are complicated. People have circumstances, get into binds. That I know.
She told us the reason was because her dad could afford her. He could pay for her phone, her appointments for her braces. Later, she said he would sometimes get upset with her when she needed things, like shampoo.
We had a celebration for our girl and lavished her with gifts. My own girls found many things that our other girl would appreciate—the tie-dyed Colorado t-shirt she was always borrowing and funny food items reminiscent of her nicknames. We also got her a big umbrella and a stylish rain jacket. She was, after all, headed to the Northwest.
And then she was gone.
I keep track of her on Facebook, analyzing her posts, reading between the lines to see if she’s okay, if she’s happy. Our girl is tough and she doesn’t expect much. She appreciates every little thing. She’s kind and beautiful in so many ways. She’s a survivor. She’ll make it.
Our girl was back in town recently, visiting her mother and some other extended family members. We were fortunate to get her for several days, for a weekend of camping, and a couple of nights of hanging at our house. Like the old days.
Our girl will be a senior in high school and right now is senior picture season. An unobtainable luxury for her. I offered to take some snapshots of her and do what I could with them on Photoshop. She was elated, just as I figured she would be. So we met her downtown one evening. My daughter, having just had her own photo shoot, had many ideas, and it wasn’t long before the camera was in her hands, the two of them off doing their own thing, as comfortable with each other as life-long sisters would be.
As the sunlight slipped away and the streetlights made their presence known, I went looking for the girls. It was my ears that found them. There was laughter and squealing about a block away. I headed that direction and there they were, playing in the fountains on Main Street, running, leaping, laughing, hugging. Drenched.
Later that night, after we’d said our good-byes, unsure of when we’d see our girl again, I looked at the photos my daughter had taken of her friend. They’re amazing. The subject is relaxed and confident and beautiful. When I look at them, I feel that everything is going to be okay for her.
The girl down the street. Our fallback friend. We’ll always love her.