At five she was the mysterious stranger, the subject of whispered stories, in her billowing robe. She was a hallowed visitor, a guest we cheered for and whose leaving we mourned. We sang her in and celebrated her company.
By ten, she was on the edges of my awareness, replaced by facts and figures, the myth fed children and unappreciated by anyone older. She was my parents’ friend who kept me apart from the rest of the world. When she arrived, the world took a breath, but that pause often did not last beyond dinner.
We were formally introduced when I turned 13 but by then, though I knew what she stood for, she was unwelcome in my world. She served as my ride to friends’ houses and was asked to drop me off a block away.
When I reached 14 she was the guest who imposed herself. She had to be fed and spoken to, and she was even a nice addition for a while, but then she grew tiresome and we all chose to sit, awkwardly alone. She was there but not acknowledged, the crazy aunt in the corner.
I hit college and she became the friend I wanted some of my friends to meet, on my own terms, of course. She was the story of a three year old, viewed with the assumed wisdom of an almost adult. She was a bargaining chip and a subject of bargains.
To a twenty-three year old she became the social director of my new family, the key to connecting and disconnecting. She was welcomed with insincere open arms and she showed up, asking nothing in return.
When I was 26 she became my drinking buddy, as she was more than happy to be around, in whatever capacity I would have her. I started to see her as a relief, but only slightly so. My life became hectic and she wanted me for herself, and was jealous of the outside world.
As a thirty-five year old, she was back to being the enrobed queen as I tried to teach my children how they have to cherish the time we spend together. I wanted them to see her as a beautiful opportunity, before she became a burden.
I am now forty-six and she is now my old friend, anticipated as she approaches, comfortable in our presence, and sorely missed when she leaves. She is that mystery again, but this time even willingly to me, as she ushers in an oasis of calm and love, and I try to explain to others that she is no burden and, given the chance, I would have her back more often than her schedule allows. I don’t mourn her leaving, but I think about her through the week.
She has kept me, as I have tried to guard her. She has grown in my eyes as I have grown into her. I cherish her in a way I never have before.