Funny thing about time. It keeps passing.

I did buy Tommy another ring, if anyone is wondering. The package turned up on his birthday -- completely by accident, I don't think I could have arranged that if I'd been trying. Unbeknownst to me, Tommy has lately decided to go spot-checking that all of the ragamuffins he's adopted over the years really want to be in his motley band of misfits. It is a peculiar mix of satisfaction and relief to be able to answer, 'do you want to be here as much as I want you here?' with an unambiguous 'yes'. Doubly so if you weren't yet aware the question was on the table. I assume most people get to do sentimental stuff like this with their family, but as I have no relatives worth speaking of, it's pretty rare for me.

It occurs to me that there is no one in my mother's life, unrelated to her by blood or marriage, who has stuck around this long. So far as I know, no one's wanted to. There is probably a reason for that. The few people I am aware of who broke a decade with her were parents of other children my or my sister's age, and when they weren't around my mother would sit at the kitchen counter and gossip inappropriately about them to us children, mainly running them down.

To the best of my knowledge, all of these friendships ended when one day the other person did a thing that was not to my mother's liking, and she just up and stopped talking to them. So far as I know, it was without warning and without explanation. She had a tendency to believe that other people made personal life changes at her. One of them converted to Christianity -- my mother has a rabid seething hatred of organized religion, for reasons that were never entirely clear to me -- and another one had her marriage break up.

I know having a best friend that you met back in grade school is a common trope in fiction; I'm not sure how common it is in real life. I don't really draw any conclusions from the fact that I've neither met nor heard anything about anyone my mother knew before, say, early adulthood. The only people I've met from her high school days are two of her cousins, and the "family dinner" did not go well.

(No one said it aloud at the time, but at least one of the two was almost certainly Quiverfull, which I'm sure just thrilled my mother to death. She had seven? eight? kids with her on the visit, and all of them were dressed in identical polos and khakis.

I was eighteen, and I dressed like I normally did, which was in a sundress and heels, with makeup. My sister, sixteen-ish, turned up in hot pants. My mother insisted on showing everyone her new navel ring, which she had gotten on a whim when she went to the tattoo parlor with my sister to give the piercer explicit personal permission to install a chrome tongue stud in her minor daughter.

It was not unlike starring in an impromptu production of "The Herdmans Go To Summer Camp". They probably prayed for our souls all the way home to Missouri.

My mother, as usual, did not appear to notice anything had gone wrong.)

I know nothing about her friends in college. She's mentioned in passing that she hated one of her roommates so much that she opted to spend a semester sleeping on someone else's floor, but I don't know what made her hate the roommate, or whose floor she decided to crash on and why. She moved away to join one of her sisters, who was at school in another state, and shared a house with her and some indeterminate number of other people who have never been named or described.

I have no idea how you can wander through your entire life giving so few fucks about other people. I certainly can't tell you about every single person I met from birth to the present day; large chunks of my childhood are just blank in my memory, and from what I do recall, I suspect I'm better off that way. But I can tell you things about every person I do remember. I can, at the very least, tell you what they looked like. I can tell you that the snotty spoiled girl whose mother ran the Girl Scout troupe I was in for all of two months was a redhead and had a pixie cut, and that I thought one of the girls in my fourth-grade class was really cool because she sometimes came to school wearing a black porkpie hat that I adored. One guy I knew had fashion sense so bad it was almost radioactive, until his girlfriend gave him an overhaul. She sent him back to school the next year looking like someone who would be admitted to any federal building in the area without any trouble at all, which frankly would have been a terrible idea on the part of the feds, because his main hobby was being a hackish PITA to authority whenever possible.

I didn't really have any good friends until I was a teenager and scared up my own on the internets, but when I tell anecdotes about them, I have to go back and edit fiercely to get through it without adding about nine pages of tangential back story. They're all people. Hilarious, improbable people.

It amazes me that anyone who knew me when I was fourteen still wants to talk to me. I knew me when I was fourteen, and I'm dubious some days. I accept that he wanted to talk to me in the first place mainly because he was fifteen at the time, and that's just about as bad. The entire juvenile justice system exists because American law considers "being a teenager" to be a valid diminished capacity defense. Poor judgement in non-criminal areas just goes along for the ride.

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