The toddler nestled into my lap on the 1940s, green artificial leather chair with brass nail head trim. Her head rested in the crook of my left arm. Across my lap, her legs dangled past the right chair arm as I cradled her. Her deep brown eyes, so dark the pupil is nearly indistinguishable from the iris, look up at me unblinking. Sometimes she moves her lips a little as I move mine, with mirror neurons firing in her brain at my speech patterns. At times, her brow scrunches a little as if her heart is taking in what I am telling her.
“Because I’m leavin’ on a jet plane/On Friday, I’ll be back again/Oh baby, I hate to go.”
Now I board a plane without them, a distance that is not easily overcome should an emergency arise. I trust my spouse to carry on, the meals, the chores, the school lessons, the love. When they snuggle me and say out of nowhere, “I love you, mommy,” I sometimes wonder, why? Why do children give their love so easily? Why do they love so recklessly? They are the ones willing to jump off a dresser because you stand there, knowing you will catch them because you will.
My daughter feels utterly safe with me.
Life tells us, eventually, that human beings are imperfect beings, and that we make mistakes. We learn eventually that forgiveness is not as simple as mumbling out some words to your siblings even as you are still mad because your mother asks you to do so.
Hopefully, eventually, we even learn that forgiveness and reconciliation can make a relationship grow. It somehow cements the bond into something altogether stronger. You wounded that person or he wounded you and when the circumstances were right when both parties were ready to grow and heal, someone apologized and someone shared what it did to them and then forgave.
Forgiveness is something unearned.
The one who did the wounding does not deserve it. It is a gift offered on the part of the wounded one in which the one wounded says she will no longer hold onto this hurt. It is not forgetting, it is letting go. It gives the one who is wounded freedom, whether or not the other receives the gift.
Reconciliation is the thing that can mend the relationship.
Reconciliation is mutual. It is a desire to learn from what has happened, and receive each other again.
Repeat apologies, forgiveness, and reconciliations move a relationship forward. It comes naturally enough in the course of a marriage, or, at least, there will be opportunities for it, I should say.
Friendship is trickier.
I find the older I get the more it helps to follow the gesture of my young friend ten years ago and declare my desire to be friends with a person. The older I get, the more it helps me to stop guessing and realize, okay, I can try to trust this person. I open up about how hard it is to trust, and how hard it is to jump, and she listens.
As we age, there is less advice given, less insight is given, because life on the one hand seems so settled and on the other hand, those differences that were but hints in the newlywed stage now make ruts in the road. There aren’t many who tread the same path.
We become more of who we are as we age, and the field narrows on whose company we’ll enjoy, or who will enjoy our company. We find we need someone to fit a little better into those grooves. Someone who can anticipate when we plan to jump.
Maybe, in a way, as we age we begin to understand better what matters and what we need.
It doesn’t help much if someone offers advice unless there is a helping hand behind it unless they are willing to catch us just a little bit, at least as much as they can. Maybe that is why it grows harder to trust, words are cheap, and by now we need more behind them, the need is greater. The need is physical, intellectual, and emotional, and as we dig deeper into the path we’re on, it is harder to fill it.
But when we do, when we hear the friend anticipate exactly what we would enjoy, it feels all the more sweeter, because you knew how hard it was to get there.