A few months after my daughter was born, we moved to a new house in a neighborhood across town. Though I was excited by the bigger yard and larger house, I quickly realized that my new street was lacking in stay-at-home moms. Our neighbors were lovely, but all of the women worked outside the home, leaving me feeling isolated and with no one to talk to. Of course, I still had my local friends, but I missed the daily mailbox interactions and goings-on in my former neighborhood.
Over time, I met polite acquaintances in our new community, but I still hadn’t found that friend who could barge into my house unannounced or who could help me with my kids in a pinch. I always dreamed that I’d have a Rhoda to my Mary Richards living a few doors down, and I longed for a friend who would understand the day-to-day struggles of stay-at-home parenting. I was hopeful that someday, I’d find the Kate to my Allie, the Meredith to my Cristina, or the Rachel to my Monica. We’d have Thelma and Louise-style adventures and a Laverne and Shirley-type theme song. That wasn’t too much to ask, right?
She moved into the house down the street on a hot summer day, and it was all I could do to contain my excitement. When I stopped by a few days after they moved in, I was immediately charmed by her wit and humor. As I watched her roll her eyes at her husband and crack rapid-fire jokes, I was sure I’d met my Rhoda. I hoped that my desperation wasn’t too apparent and was thrilled to find out she was amused by many of the same things that made me giggle. If nothing else, it was nice to have another young mother finally living down the street.
As the months and years passed, our friendship expanded along with our families. Our husbands got along, and I delighted in spoiling her new babies as they arrived. We shared funny texts, countless cups of coffee, and more discussions about Grey’s Anatomy than any two humans should. Date nights, summer evenings by the fire pit, and neighborhood parties solidified our relationship. I came to love her children, and my kids adored stopping by her house after school.
On my darkest day, the day my father died, it was at her house that I dealt with the crisis that was unraveling 1,600 miles away. I screamed and cried on the phone in her den as she held me and her husband fed my kids dinner. After the news came that he’d passed away, it was she who sat with me on the couch as I held my children to tell them the news. She led me home, coordinated my travel with my husband who was out of town for work, and did all of my laundry. She even packed our suitcases because I couldn’t think straight.
In those terrible hours, she was what I needed to survive. She did what I couldn’t do, kept me upright and moving when all I wanted to do was collapse and cry. To this day, her kindnesses are the one bright spot on what was the worst day of my life. I was grateful to have such a good friend.
And then, slowly, she became secretive, quiet, and distant. We began to spend less time together, and our relationship felt strained. I was still dealing with my grief and perhaps didn’t notice the signs that our friendship was changing. When the “For Sale” sign went up in their yard without warning, I was hurt and shocked. I accepted that a new opportunity in another state meant an exciting change for her, and I tried to be supportive. But I was terribly sad that our day-to-day interactions would change and hurt that she could be so excited about moving away. Was it selfish of me? Probably, but I blame my feelings on how much I knew I’d miss her. I had no idea just how much things would change.
Moving day came with promises to text and FaceTime, and we all agreed we’d visit in the summer. As her moving truck pulled away, my chest heaved with tears. I watched her wave excitedly as they drove away—it seemed as if she couldn’t get out of town fast enough. My “I miss you already” text a few hours after her departure went unanswered.
After that day, save for one or two texts and a quick FaceTime call, I never heard from her again. We are no longer friends on social media, and I never received another Christmas card of the children I had come to adore. It’s been three years and I’ve been left to wonder what I did that made her cut me off. Was I too needy? Was I an overeager, know-it-all mom? Was she just being tolerant of my family and me—too polite to say she didn’t want to be friends? Or was it merely that her life had become too full to include me in it, even in the smallest measure? It still hurts to think of that. Clearly, we weren’t Rhoda and Mary.
In any case, whatever the reason, it’s hard to have fond memories of someone who no longer wants to be friends. I’ll be forever grateful of the support she offered during my father’s death, but on summer nights, when the air is just the right mix of warm and humid, when I hear the neighborhood kids laughing and playing, I can feel the old ghost of our friendship. And it still hurts to think of how easily I was cast aside.