My childhood was not one marked by permanence of relationships. I won't go into the details but there was a lot of fluctuation due to my parents' divorce and the resulting introduction of new people who frequently did not hang around very long. My own childhood friendships were a little tenuous as well. Our family was regarded with a certain degree of suspicion so at times other kids were hesitant to become friends or once relationships were established their parents may have decided to put the brakes on. I learned never to over-estimate my value in someone else's eyes.
My years in college were when I finally found friends who I truly believed might stick around for the long-haul. I'm glad to say I was right since all these years later I am still in contact with a few college pals. My time in Trinidad introduced me to people who felt like kindred spirits in a way no one else ever had. I fell in love...hard.
It was extreme circumstances which necessitated our departure from Trinidad. I couldn't deny the logic in leaving but I still left kicking and screaming. Each visit there afterward resulted in me spending a significant portion of the return trip to the US in tears. My husband never quite understood why my reaction was so strong. When he finally worked up the courage to ask I told him it was because I was terrified that the friendships I had formed there would die due to the physical distance; I did not know how to love people long distance and imagining the loss of such nourishing relationships was exquisitely painful.
In the first few years after our return, there were two friends with whom I regularly exchanged letters. It was reassuring that they'd take the time to write because I knew that was not really the norm for the culture. I feared somewhat with my friends who were not inclined to keep in touch. I was encouraged though when I'd go back to visit and be received with the same affection and warmth that had been shown when I lived there. In fact, a couple friends specifically told me they were sorry they were not good about writing but they hoped I knew I was always in their hearts and there was always a space in their homes when I wanted to visit.
I've been blessed to have a few different Trini friends come visit me in the US. Each time was a complete joy. Being able to lavish back on them some of the love they gave us when we lived there was a delight. There was a bit more confidence given to me that they'd spend the time and the expense to come to my house whether it was only for the day when someone was passing through or if they came for a week or more.
Nineteen years have come and gone since we moved to Trinidad. Our closest friends from there have just spent a week with us over Christmas. The husband was last here 11 years ago and this is the first time his whole family has come with him. There was rejoicing at the reunion, lots of laughter as we reminisced and made new memories, and tears on cheeks other than my own when they left. Though I am not happy about the separation that will now resume I am deeply grateful for the time we had together and for the proof that love and friendship can endure and deepen in spite of time and distance. It is a gift I never dared imagine existing before and one that only time could have revealed.