When I was six I lived right next door to my very best friend. It may have been the proximity that made us so, but nevertheless, we spent every day together playing make-believe either at her house or mine; or if we were being too loud, on the sidewalks of our neighborhood. The first one of us free to play each morning (usually it was me) was knocking on the front door of the others’ house with our request,“Can Cindy come out and play?”
It never mattered that we’d played with our Barbie dolls five times already that week. We’d rifle through the cardboard boxes to find our favorite outfits, and if we were lucky, two little plastic shoes of the same color. We’d line up what was left and take our “girls’ out shopping for “new” clothes. We’d sit them down for lunch with bottle caps full of torn grass salads.
Our imaginations were always stimulated by the presence of the other. Later, as the afternoon wore on, we might get scooted out to the back porch with push-up pops or corralled around the TV for Sesame Street with Cindy’s little brother Chris climbing on top of us, his hands like cold clay gripping our arms to pull himself up. We didn’t care what we were doing, as long as we were together.
But every now and then, I’d make my way up the driveway to the front door, somehow already sensing trouble –a hollow knock, and nothing, the doorbell chiming for no one to hear. No one was home. The excitement I carried with me to her house fell flat like a kite on a windless day. Nothing I could do would make it take flight again. I returned home to spend the afternoon slumped in front of “baby” cartoons I didn’t really want to see. Other times, I would wander the neighborhood looking for someone, anyone to take away the sting of being alone.
Did you ever have one of those rare days when your childhood BFF wasn’t home or was too sick to come out and play? Do you remember feeling lost and lonely?
Our early experiences in relationship with someone outside of our family reveal a lot about us.
First, it tells us that we thrive in relationship. Given the choice as children, most of us would prefer to be with someone our own age, making up a world that is friendly and exciting to kids. Every day, I watched my own kids flock to the closest house with kids they could play with – just like I did when I was their age. Being with someone is the point; what you do together is secondary. Just feeling the closeness of someone by your side brings a feeling of safety and acceptance, things that give us the confidence we need to keep exploring and growing with our world.
When we are with others, our mental thoughts give way to pure being-ness. Engaging with another person you can’t help but put most of your thoughts on the back burner and when you do, what’s left? A creative palette for exploration and innovation. Kids appreciate the imaginative quality of someone their own age, and who could blame them. When’s the last time you were drawn to someone for their creativity and imagination? Being with an imaginative person allows us to tap into our own imagination more and allows us to see ourselves in a new (often better) light. What we appreciate most about our relationships with other people is who we get to be when we are with them.
Finally, if we’re lucky, we find two shoes of the same color. Knowing there are other people in the world that think and feel the way you do affirms your life and offers you hope to continue reaching for more. Our best relationships challenge us in a loving way, pointing out the truth of who we are in times when we’re not so sure.