Lost Friends and Regret

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Younger--Janice and Me

I met Janice the first week of my sophomore year at Towson High School.

She rushed into English class from art class, holding a large drawing of a rabbit.

Being fond of rabbits, I took note.

“He’s wonderful,” I said.

“I just can’t seem to get him right,” she answered.

My mother was an artist, and I dearly wanted to be one too. At sixteen, I’d figured out, finally, that I had no artistic talent. Janice’s rabbit was exquisitely drawn.

More beautiful than I, Janice had china doll skin and saucer brown eyes that gave her a whimsical yet intent expression.

She spoke in a whispy, quiet voice. I was louder, sometimes shushed by teachers for my talking.

But talk Janice and I did.

For hours.

On the phone. In class. At lunch. In the hall. Weekend sleepovers. Notes and letters.

About school, family, theater, other girls, art, fashion,music, books, boys, and more.

For my birthday, she gave me a teddy bear, a proper one with honey brown fur and jointed arms and legs. We  named him Bear. Years too old, some would say, for teddy bears, we had a glorious time creating Bear’s quirky personality.

Our school book fair that spring sold an edition of Robert Frost’s poems. In Janice’s copy I wrote, “Frost says ‘Nothing gold can stay.’ We’ll prove him wrong.”

Frost was right, and I’ve spent years trying to figure out how Janice and I allowed our friendship to end.

Senior year, she became distant, withdrawn.

She hinted of visits to a therapist (a much bigger deal in 1972) and seemed in various moments to be distracted, angry, sad, or disappointed with me, life, school, the future.

Instead of talking to her, asking questions, attempting to help, I grew frustrated and let her go.

Forty years later, I now understand that my role in the ending of the friendship was selfish and my silence cowardly.

What about you?

Do you still experience twinges of sadness over a lost friendship?

Any attempts to find that friend?

My plan is to look for Janice. I want to find out, among other things, if she’s still drawing rabbits.

Younger-Bear

Top Photo:  Me, wearing glasses, and Janice. We’re holding my cats Martin and Peter.

Bottom Photo:  Bear on a  bookshelf today in my family room.

17 responses »

  1. I hope you can find her and discover that she got through that difficult time okay. Don’t be too hard on your teenage self, though–not the best years for unselfish empathy.

  2. Most teenagers are pretty self-centered, but you probably just didn’t know how to handle her change in behavior and attitude. A lot for a teen to handle. But with the internet, you just may be able to find her. Maybe you can pick up again where the relationship ended and you can introduce her to Sarah!

  3. I never knew you had a cat named “Martin”!
    I have been trying to find a lost high school friend for awhile and have had no success. I hope you have better luck!!

  4. Yes.

    Hard to get by that word without choking up.

    Yes. I have regretted letting friendships end just for lack of trying. I think we all can drift at certain ages and life circumstances. And, as in the case with your friend Janice, sometimes there are difficulties in life that are hard to understand and work past, or through. Especially as teenagers, it’s scary to see a friend change. It’s still hard even as an adult, but awareness of emotional disorders can now help us figure things out, and maybe deal with them better.

    I hope you find Janice and reconnect. Best wishes to you both.

  5. I think it’s easy for our much wiser mid-life selves to critique and judge our younger selves. Now we know so much more, have so much more compassion, empathy and knowledge. I find myself judging my younger self all the time, wondering why I made the choices I did, especially where relationships are concerned. Even now I get angry with myself for not doing more, not understanding more. What we have to remember is that we did not have the advantage then that we do now. We’ve lived a lifetime since our teen years and so have grown and changed so much. Of course we would handle things differently now than we did then. I find I have to forgive myself for both things I did and for things I did not do. I ask God even now to cover those things with His grace. How I would love to reconnect with some of the friends of those years and have the chance to love them with my much wiser self. Best of luck in finding your friend. I am betting she will be thrilled to hear from you 🙂

  6. I have a friend who I have emailed and even tried to call but she has not returned any of my calls. I wonder now what I did wrong. I heard from another friend she is doing well. I hope that in some way I did not do or say anything to offend her. Thanks. I will try again.

  7. Glad you are going to look for her; hope you find her. I still regret letting one of my high school friendships slip away. (By the way, I love you in glasses!)

  8. I lost my best friend to mental illness when we were in our twenties. Still breaks my heart, but she “turned” on me and was convinced I wished her ill. Nothing I could reasonably say or do helped (she wanted me to apologize for and “explain” things that had happened only in her head).

    Could I have handled it better, now? Sure, but I did the best I could at the time, as you probably did the best YOU could, as a teen.

  9. Lovely story. Great photo of you. I can’t say I have friends I’ve lost that way though there are people I’m not as connected with as I was at different stages in life. With internet etc. you might be able to find her.

  10. Hind sight and maturity! I am looking for an old college room mate. There was an article about me and my company in the Costco Connection magazine. So many old friends saw it and contacted me it was delightful but not this one friend!

  11. I hope you find her… I have reconnected with so many “old” friends through social media and am so grateful for our renewed friendship. It’s strange how with some people the reconnection is almost instant.

  12. I hope you find Janice. The good news is that it is much easier to track people down these days. I think as we get older we yearn for dear ones who were so formative in our early lives.

  13. To refrain from judging our past actions by our present capabilities is great advice! I remember a junior high classmate who lived with a foster family. She wore the same out of style but freshly laundered and ironed dress every day. She’d beg her friends for spare change to buy extra food in the school cafeteria. She stopped attending our school and we learned that she and her sister had been removed from the foster home. I wasn’t at all knowledgeable about signs of neglect, and I have always wished I had helped her. My middle school students are much more informed about danger signals and how to get help for their friends.

    I remember Janice and I hope you find her!

  14. Thank you all for your comments! The idea of losing and finding a friend has touched a cord. I think Nancy and others are so insightful to suggest we are overly critical of our youthful selves. I’d actually never had that thought before. I’m still feeling guilty that as a teenager, I didn’t spend enough time with my grandpa when he came to visit. Time to let that one go too, I suspect.

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