When I was a child, I had a purple Crown Royal bag filled with all manner of marbles. We collected them, admired them, competed with them, and crowed about who had the most or “rarest.”
There was something deeply satisfying about the heft of the bag, and the “aggies, beauties, cats-eyes, clearies, steelies, tigers and swirlies” within. We gathered friends in the same ways: through an arcane process of admiration, competition and number-building.
During my childhood, my family moved several times, and though I cried bitter tears about losing my “gang”, I always knew that I’d gather a new one. And I always did (until the “loner” years of high school).
How easily kids make friends. When they’re very young, all one has to do is put them in one another’s proximity. Why does it get so much harder with the passing years? We seem tentative and suspicious – so we collect masses of acquaintances instead (and, weirder yet, hundreds of “social media” “friends and followers”).
At some point we bring out that proverbial Crown Royal bag, “cull the herd” and toss away the marbles that no longer please us or possess special meaning. Sometimes we rediscover one or two that we truly cherish: the battle-scarred, trusted, and unique. So we put them in our pocket to keep them close. By the time we’re in our 50’s we have a handful of beloved friends. And that’s a Good Thing. It speaks of depth, quality, reality and truth.
But it also frightens me. Some of my most-treasured friends are now in their late- 60s and 70s. Some are facing physical battles. These handful of “beauties” mean the world to me and the thought of ever losing them strikes at my heart.
I know… I shouldn’t waste time grieving future loss but, instead, give glad thanks for having found these extraordinary people…and I do – each day of my life. But in those small hours of the night when you lie abed; feeling the earth turn on its axis; the cosmos clash and wheel beyond you; the past, present and future perching at the end of your bed; and the darkness expanding into your thoughts…it’s hard to not cry for the losses behind and ahead.
“‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Tennyson
“And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” Gibran
I know that. I do. But, like a child, I will always rail against the unfairness of it all, even as I celebrate every drop of joy this life contains.
No matter how many years pass – no matter how wise and mature and accepting we become – we all clutch the bed-covers at night and, in our true-voice, cry out in prayer, “Don’t leave me. Just please, please don’t leave me.”
But we go on… learning, often through heartache, that we must never allow a touch to be withheld or a loving word unspoken. (Time is an evil thief and a fairy godmother: the helpmate of hope, and the handmaiden of despair. I think that, had it been up to me, I would have invented a far better system).