My best childhood friend Brandy and I met in third grade. She used to come over to my house every Thursday after school, where we’d play board games and snack on barbecue chips. When we’d had our fill of the greasy treat, we’d trek out into the grassy backyard with our fox tail, a rubber ball affixed to a long, multicolored nylon sock. By nightfall, our little bodies were so tired that it was all we could do to eat a huge plate of spaghetti and do our best to answer the Before and After puzzle on Wheel of Fortune. We were spent, at least until the following Thursday when the routine would start all over again like a well-oiled machine. That’s what Brandy and I were: a well-oiled machine. We went together like peanut butter and jelly. Like milk and cookies. Like Mr. Rogers and his red sweater. Our gears turned in a synchronous rhythm. For the first time, Brandy — and the rest of my peers — saw me for who I was. I was part of something, whether we were merely playing tag on the playground or memorizing our spelling words. My wheelchair — and my disability, for that matter — vanished into thin air. I could at long last simply be myself. It was one of the most refreshing things I’d ever felt.
My sister once said that one taste of sweet Godiva chocolate turned her taste buds off to all other chocolate. My childhood friends are my Godiva chocolates. No matter what new and exciting friendships I embark on, they’ll pale in comparison to my childhood chums — the people I grew up with, who knew me inside and out and left their stamp on me. Everywhere I go, everything I do, my friends are with me. I’m a walking collage of my past friendships; the photograph of who I was, who I am and who I become is assembled by every friend who’s ever walked through the door of my life. My wise mother has repeated an old saying to me nearly every day since I was four years old: Make new friends but keep the old…one is silver and the other’s gold. Like those gooey, sweet Godiva chocolates, I wouldn’t give up my friends. They’re all wrapped in shiny gold paper. I’ll carry them in my heart wherever the tide takes me.
[Photos via We Heart It]