Friday, April 18, 2008

The Silence That Broke the Friendship

I had a dear friend and we haven't spoken in nearly two years. I know exactly how long it's been since our last conversation in person, because it was on Mother's Day, two years ago when she came by my house. It was my very first Mother's Day, being a new Mama, and I was enjoying the day. She had called earlier in the day to tell me she had something for me, which was just like her. She was the one friend I had that never missed an opportunity to send a card, remembered all the important dates and was the first to send her congratulations and well wishes.

One of her many hobbies, which filled her days, was painting. She'd re-do a painting over and over until she got it "just right" to her critical eye. The walls of her house were filled with landscapes and still-lifes, never to be sold, painting mainly for her own enjoyment. For my engagement, she surprised me with a painting of the building where I met my future husband. She thoughtfully incorporated the name of the bar, the date we met and added fireworks to the painting that, to this day, still proudly hangs in our entryway as a reminder of the beginnings of our relationship and what's grown from that day.

A year or so into my marriage, I found myself holding a little bundle, sleep deprived and enjoying "my" day. She came over and instantly, from the size of the present, I knew she had other painting for me. I was once again thrilled and stunned that someone would take the time to do something that special for me. I couldn't wait to rip the wrapping paper off to unveil the image. Together we sat on the couch, I opened my present only to be left speechless. Speechless in a bad, very bad, way. I tried to fake it but I just couldn't bring myself to feign excitement. My face dropped, my mind raced spinning in circles trying to come up with the right words...quickly. I couldn't let this awkward silence last too long.

What could I say? I was staring at a picture of myself in my hospital gown, in the hospital bed, with reminders of those first days when it was really hard for me, holding my newborn. But it wasn't me and it wasn't my newborn. I was looking at memories of a time that wasn't the happiest time of my life, it was a time I was so scared I'd made a mistake, a time I was trying to hide from. And all in a painting that just didn't look like me, it was all askew, arms angled in positions that aren't normal and skin tones that aren't found in real life. It was all, just not right.

I'm not sure what I said or what she said back but those words were the last time we spoke. I must have thanked her but my words were empty compared to the look in my eyes. It's not the response she was looking for and it hurt her. I hurt her. I just couldn't help it.

It was only silence I got from her after that. I knew in my heart, her absence in my life stemmed from those moments. I tried to ignore it and hoped time would heal the wound but I knew better. Months later, I emailed her, she said she was embarrassed and wished she had never taken the liberty to impose such personal moment to her canvas. I told her it was all ok, but for her the damage had been done and so was the relationship we once had.

I still have that painting and always will. For me, for someone to take the time and effort to do something so thoughtful is an incredibly giving gesture, one that far out weighs the bad memories of the gift gone wrong.

L-if for some reason you somehow come across this, I love you and always will. You are a sweet, thoughtful and caring woman. I can only wish we could both take back those moments two years ago.


It's true, in most cases it's the thought that counts. Too bad it just didn't work out that way this time. No matter if I win the $250 to easy my pains at the spa, or not, it's been cathartic to ease my pains through the written word. Check out other "Gifts Gone Right, Gifts Gone Wrong" stories at:

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