After the initial shock of being kicked out of Debbie’s life, I spent a few weeks feeling deeply wounded. After a while, the hurt turned to a bitter anger. How dare she take away her friendship, and by default, my connection with her entire family!
She had three young nieces who I’d known since they were babies. I’d attended birthday parties and countless Sunday dinners, after which we’d sit on the floor and play, or snuggle on the couch while watching Disney movies. I had a pile of construction paper cards they’d made for me with markers and glitter.
It broke my heart to think that I wouldn’t get to see them anymore. They would grow up thinking I was a bad person for deliberately turning my back on the Truth. I knew this, because I’d once had their perspective – I’d seen adults leave the Truth and never be heard from again. I always thought they had just wandered off into darkness and I couldn’t imagine why they’d do such a thing.
A few months later was the wedding of a Christadelphian couple we both knew. I had been looking forward to the wedding simply because I’d get to reunite with friends from afar. Plus, the bride and I had a long history (even longer than my history with Debbie) and we had been very close friends. After Debbie’s ultimatum, however, I began dreading the event because I knew I’d have to interact with her at least a little.
At the wedding, Debbie greeted me as if nothing had happened. I politely commented on her dress and then quickly excused myself. Fortunately there were so many people there that I hadn’t seen in a long time, I had plenty of others to talk to and I was able to avoid interacting with her the rest of the night. That would be the last time I saw her… for a few years, anyway.
That fall, I went off to UConn to start a new chapter in my life. I formed a nice circle of friends there, although I discovered that my emotional wounds kept me from fully connecting with them. I had this fear that if I revealed my true self, they would find something to not like about me. I never told any of them about my weird religious past, and I never talked about my hands, or my scars. I pretended none of that stuff existed.
In my final year of school, Debbie tracked me down on Facebook. By then it had been 3 years since I’d had any kind of contact with her. Oh, I’d spent plenty of time thinking about her, and I’d written multiple rage-filled letters, but I never mailed any of them.
She was very cheery in her message and lamented about how long it had been since we’d talked and how she was so happy to have found me on Facebook. I held back from pointing out that I still had the same cell phone number and email address that I’d had three years before, so it was entirely possible for her to reach me if she’d really wanted to. Instead, I gave myself a day to contemplate how to respond before replying to her.
I had a sneaking suspicion that she was contacting me because she wanted to tell me something. Something awesome about herself. Lo and behold, in her next message she excitedly proclaimed that she was pregnant. She was hoping I would come to her baby shower, because she would love to see me again.
Now you’re probably hoping for me to have responded with a resounding “Go &@#$ yourself!” but that is not what I did. No. My tender heart still ached for her friendship, so I agreed to reunite at her baby shower. Luckily for me, I was still friends with the aforementioned bride, so I met up with her to carpool to the shower. I was glad to have someone with me when I walked through that door into a room of women I hadn’t seen in over 3 years.
It was actually a pretty good day. Debbie was happy to see me, and the other women all greeted me warmly. The only awkward moment came towards the end, when my long ago ex-boyfriend’s mother pinned me against a wall, and proclaimed “Jesus will be back soon!” She looked at me fiercely, her eyes mere inches from mine. I had to control myself to keep from laughing nervously in her face. I couldn’t think of any response, other than “Okay!”
Afterward, I relayed the story to Debbie and a few other women, expecting laughs, but they just looked at me seriously and one said, “Well, she’s got a point!” I’d forgotten what a tough crowd they could be.
A few months later, after Debbie had her baby, I actually did darken her doorstep once again so I could meet the little one. In fact, we made some effort to rekindle our friendship then. I joined them for dinner a few times, and we walked that old familiar route, this time with a baby carriage, but, as she had so ominously predicted years before, without that Christadelphian connection, we had nothing in common.
We remained Facebook friends and got together occasionally for lunch, but it finally became obvious to me that I didn’t even want to be friends with her anymore. There were so many off-limits topics during our lunch conversations – mainly, because I couldn’t trust her.
I knew anything I told her would be reported back to her family, who would lament about how far I’d fallen (in their opinion). What with my nontraditional living arrangements, a transgender sibling, a gay brother, divorcing parents and major depression all being hot topics at the time. I couldn’t even talk to her without blatantly lying, and I am a terrible liar. What kind of a friendship is that?
I didn’t give her the courtesy of taking a long walk and listing my gripes with her. I just stopped reaching out. I removed her from my Facebook friends, along with everyone in her family, and most of the Christadelphians I had long ago been friends with but who I no longer felt comfortable sharing with. It was hard to do this, but I hoped it would help me finally close the door on the painful, long-drawn-out process.
Years later – I think it was 2015, but I can’t even remember now – Dave and I went to the local mall the weekend before Christmas. We ran into several people we knew, mostly co-workers past and present. I said a silent thank you to the universe that we hadn’t run into any Christadelphians, and marvelled about this once it was time to leave.
As we were walking out the door to the parking lot, I saw a couple with two kids on their way in. Without giving it a second thought, I held the door for them. “Thank you!”, the woman said laughingly, as their group ambled through. Our eyes met and we instantly recognized each other. It was Debbie.
Of course we stopped and said hello. Her daughters both eyed me shyly. The older one wouldn’t have remembered that I’d held her as a baby. Jason was holding the younger one and said to her, “This used to be Mommy’s friend.” After we exchanged niceties, we stood for an awkward moment before, “Well, we’ll let you get on with your shopping”, and then farewell.
As Dave and I walked toward the car, I was thrilled to note that I hadn’t felt any pangs of emotion at seeing them. It was almost like we’d just had a pleasant conversation with complete strangers. Just as Jason had said – I used to be mommy’s friend. And now I wasn’t. And that was okay.