I remember a day WAAAAAAY back when – probably around 1979 or 1980 – when I was finally allowed to walk around Kennywood by myself with friends. It was an exciting day. I went with a friend who was a family friend – our parents had been friends since childhood, so we had known each other pretty much since birth and despite her being a year younger (huge to a child), we were good friends.
I believe her parents took us and set us loose. My parents were coming later, after work. We made our way around the park, and ended up meeting up with some of HER friends (I knew them all, but we didn’t hang out, or really have a relationship). It started off OK, but there was an odd number of us now, and before long, it was me who was being forced to ride alone (or not at all in the case of the 2-riders-or-none rides like the Thunderbolt). And eventually, somehow (I don’t really remember how it happened), they dumped me.
A few hours before, I felt so grown up, walking around this seeming huge place without an adult! But now? Now I was scared. I was surrounded by strangers and I had been abandoned by my lifelong friend. I was embarrassed, as if it were somehow MY fault that they had left me. I don’t remember how long I walked around that park like that. It seemed like an eternity, but it was probably about an hour or two before I saw my parents running towards me. They had spotted me walking alone and crying, and it scared them to death.
I remember that my parents spent the rest of the night riding every vomit-inducing ride the park had, just to try and make me feel better. And in the end, the night finished with me becoming best friends with the girl who still holds that spot in my heart (an awesome story for another day), so it all worked out, I suppose. But not for my mom. She was PISSED. I don’t know if she ever said anything to my friend’s parents, or just let it go, but I remember how very, VERY pissed she was.
And she stayed pissed. Even though I forgave my friend, my mother did not. She never trusted her again, never suggested that I invite her over, pretty much never liked her at all after that. I used to roll my eyes when she’d make a comment. Even many years later – as an adult – if I mentioned this friend, she would say, “I always remember how she left you in Kennywood.” And even as an adult, I would roll my eyes and say, “It’s FINE, Mom! It was years ago! It was no big deal – nothing bad happened!” But now I’m a mom, too, and I understand that something bad DID happen – her baby was hurt. And moms have a hard time forgetting when someone hurts their baby.
Recently, one of the girl’s friends said something extremely unkind about her. It really hurt her feelings (and if I’m being honest, it hurt mine a little, too). She didn’t say it to her face, but someone who heard it told her. And when the friend heard that she knew, she walked up to her, said, “I know you know what I said.” And walked away. No explanation, no apology, nothing. At some point in the next day or two, the girl forgave her friend (which is the right thing to do, of course), but now I get it. I get where my mom was coming from. The friend changed her story at some point, claiming she never said it – that the girl who relayed it made it up, but I don’t believe that based on her reaction when it happened. And like my mom, I will never forget. I will continue to be cordial, but I have no inclination to invite this girl over, or to extend any other sort of invitation. I’m glad that my daughter is kind and is continuing to be friendly, but like my mom, I can’t forget her face, her tears, her pain. And despite the fact that she looks and sounds exactly like me when she says, “It’s FINE, Mom!” I know that for me, it will never be fine.
And that’s OK – I’m the mom. It’s my job.