The summer going into 5th grade, I spent most of the unbearably sticky, hot Baltimore days inside--reading books, writing and watching TV. It's not that I didn't want to play outside. It's just that I was painfully shy, and couldn't bear the awkward situation of trying to make new neighborhood pals. My two real friends had recently moved away, and I wasn't up for making new friends. Besides, I was completely comfortable spending my summer days as a recluse. I loved to read and write, and the air-conditioning felt darn good.
My parents felt sorry for me I guess, and felt I should try and "be a kid". So, they thrust me into a friendship with a girl who had just moved in with her father, stepmother and two stepbrothers across the street. Kelly was a year older in school, but about 10 years old in terms of experience.
Kelly easily befriended me, kind of relishing having a younger kid to boss around. Before long, I was thrown into her troubled life. She had come to live with her father, after years of physical and mental abuse from her mother. I won't retell her stories. That's for her to do.
It was painfully obvious (even to me at the time) that her actions and personality were a result of the abuse. As an immature soon-to-be fifth grader, I just kind of went along with whatever she wanted, even though a lot of it shocked me. Up until this point, I had been the epitome of a perfect daughter with excellent grades and a goodie two shoes personality. Around this time, I was kind of fed up with being such a good little girl for some reason. I even recall writing in my diary that I wanted to rebel. I guess meeting Kelly was fate. She offered that bad girl life I craved.
My parents didn't have much of a clue about the trouble we got ourselves into, but when I started not coming home for curfew on multiple occasions, they put a stop to it. About two years into our "best friendship," my parents told me I could no longer hang out with Kelly. I was crushed, but also strangely relieved.
After I was forbidden to be friends with Kelly, I withdrew into myself again, but then gradually made other friends. Eventually Kelly moved away--I think around freshman year in high school. That was fine with me.
I don't think my parents or I foresaw the importance of this decision. I didn't truly realize this until three days ago when she friended me on Facebook. She has two children---17 and 10, and she was recently released from prison.
"I'm ready for a fresh start. It's never too late to start over," Kelly wrote on her Facebook wall.
I agree and I truly hope my troubled friend finds her way and experiences happiness. I feel sad that she has obviously led such a tough life, but I also feel selfishly fortunate to have drifted away from her as a young girl. Of course I have my parents to thank for that. It takes wise and loving parents to make such difficult decisions.