After Christmas last year, I took my time. With care, I unplugged the Christmas lights, wrapping them in those gentle loops like rope I was holding for a lasso that I would never learn to twirl. I layered them gently in one of my gazillion storage tubs for our Christmas decorations, hoping that this year they wouldn’t get in those insufferable knots, even though I knew the wish was wasted thinking. I then moved on to the lighted deer that grazed on our front lawn and stacked the lighted presents that had spent December displayed in front of the rose bushes. The icicle lights came down as well as the wreath wrapped in white lights. For a month, the front of my home was lit up in a holiday version of the Vegas strip with colorful lights and magical displays of decorations. Once New Years hits, however, it’s all put away and the front of my house is reduced to one lone porch light. It’s a striking difference, to say the least.
Everything is packed away with careful precision and care and I’m already eager for the next year. The storage tubs are piled like Legos in our garage, left to sit and be ignored for the next eleven months. No one touches them. They’re protected from the elements and other harsh abuse, such as the 8-year old and her friends. They’re safe, even if they’re lonely.
It is because I cared how well they were packed last year that I was surprised that half of them didn’t work this year when I pulled them out to enjoy them again. With enthusiasm, I pulled out the deer and staked them back out in the front yard. The wreath went over the garage door and the icicles dripped from the gutters. Extension cords were stretched across the yard and over the roof, waiting for that surge of power that would cause the explosion of colorful lights to chase away the darkness of a boring front yard.
However, only half of my lights worked. Two of the three does were crippled with bulbs that refused to brighten their limbs and the buck was in complete darkness, making me wonder if there had been a family squabble while they were packed away. Half of my icicles had melted and left major portions of my roofline still in the dark. Strings of lights that worked fine were suddenly Friday’s trash pickup.
They weren’t overused. For eleven months they weren’t used at all! They were fine when I packed them away. What happened that made them sit there in darkness now?
I’m sure there’s an electrical or scientific explanation. Time itself wears things down even when not in use. Age happens and if things aren’t used often they’ll simply break down like a battery can lose its charge if it just sits. I’m sure it’s something like that, but as I’m not of a scientific mindset, I believe gremlins broke into my storage bins and busted my lights while they twisted and knotted my cords. That makes sense to me.
I’ve heard people say that they lost contact with a friend for years and suddenly they were thrust back together and it was if nothing had ever changed. There had been no contact. No emails. No phone calls. No Facebook updates. No Instagram photos of pets shared. Nothing. Yet, it was as if time had not ticked away on the clock and they picked up where they left off and the friendship was the same.
I’m sorry. I don’t believe it.
I’m not saying the new friendship wasn’t great or just as satisfying as what it had been in previous years. There are people I was best friends with ten years ago and I have no doubt that we could get together and enjoy a cup of coffee or a meal and have a great time. I am also equally positive that we could rekindle a friendship which would last for years and we could become almost as close as we once were. However, it won’t be just as if we had never parted in the first place. Like my Christmas lights that had been ignored for eleven months, time and distance changes a friendship. If it didn’t, then I would have to surmise that neither person grew and remained stagnant in younger behavior.
Friendships don’t get packed away. You cannot put them in a corner and forget them and then expect them to remain the same. I have to pull out my lights, check the bulbs and inspect the cords. Maintenance. Relationships require maintenance, as well. People grow together and remain close when they stay in contact and interact with each other, sharing life’s experiences, joys and trials. You lose something when you stay apart and when you decide to pull it back out and bask in its light again, you just may find that a portion of friendship’s light has gone out.
Some can be repaired and enjoyed for years to come. Others will wind up in the box of memories to be remembered with fondness, but sadly unable to regain that brightness it once contained. Treat your friends better than your decorations. Keep them close and put care into the relationship. Don’t wait for them to do it, either. You should be the one to check the bulb and keep it shining bright, or don’t be surprised when it begins to dim and becomes part of life’s discards..
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