Bunny Pillows

I’m sure every little kid has dealt with this dilemma; who is my best friend? And I don’t blame them, picking an always-by-your-side companion can seem like a life or death decision. This person will be playing Train with you on the slide. They will share a table with you in class, also sharing your crayons, paints, etc. They will be you partner in gym class, panting next to you as you both finish the last stretch of the mile run. As an elementary school kid, all of those things are huge deals that could possibly define you for the rest of your life.

So how do you think I felt when my best friend went to a different school? I guess as a child, I didn’t really know what I was missing, I saw her almost every weekend, her big sister was my adored babysitter and whenever my parents needed her help, her little sister tagged along. Katie was her name, full name Katherine, but she always hated the length. Our relationship, as little girls, was melancholy. We would get extremely worked up over the most pointless fights, whether it was over who got the name Samantha when we played spies (it was a significantly cool thing to have the nickname Sam), or tearing off the plastic jewels on a fake princess phone. But we always made up the next day and were best friends again (although, I seriously thought our friendship was over after that jewel incident).

But no matter how separate we were or how many times we thought we hated each other, we were always connected by something. An item we both had, a constant reminder of who our best friend really was. The bunny pillows. Her mom bought us them when we were around five-years-old. With permanent marker, she wrote our names on the tags, which eventually faded and I’m pretty sure we got them mixed up at one of our many slumber parties. She handed them to our small selves, fluffy and white, brand new, soaked with innocence. They became a requirement in both of our lives.

I slept with that thing every night for years. I brought it on all our car trips, to every friend’s house, and to anywhere else I needed a fluffy thing to lie on. I remember getting so excited whenever my mom washed it. Considering the amount of use, that pillow went through the washer frequently. And when it did, it transformed from a dingy old pillow I had for years into a bright and fluffy white bunny, coming alive after tumbling around in a little sudsy water. My favorite part of this process was racing to the dryer and catching it right when it came out so I could rub my face all over the soft warmth radiating from its back. I was so attached to that dumb pillow, it was almost like it was my best friend rather than Katie. Maybe as just a little girl, I sensed that a pillow possessed more means of friendship than she did.

When I turned 9, I moved to California. Far, far away from Katie. For the first year or so, we e-mailed. Yahoo was the Facebook equivalent of my childhood. I tried to e-mail her all the time so our closeness didn’t die. But slowly, the word count of her replies lowered and lowered to nothing. I, still with hope, tried sending her letter, desperate, hand-written pleadings for just a conversation with her, but those too received no response. I began to realize that me and my best friend had drifted apart, both traveling into new lives. But I still had my bunny pillow. I stopped sleeping with it because of how filthy it got, but it was still there, sitting in my closet, on top of everything so it wouldn’t get squashed.

Then, something amazing happened. My parents revealed to us that we were visiting Michigan again! The trip was beyond exciting. We got to fly on a plane, see California from the sky, and buy whatever snack we wanted at the airport. When we arrived, we went from house to house, visiting all of our family and friends one at a time. Somewhere in these visits, I went to Katie’s house for a couple days. To my surprise, it was one of the greatest visits I went on that summer. We played, we laughed, we talked all night, just like old times, minus the fights. I felt like I had my best friend back, like I finally knew for sure that we could still enjoy spending time together even after years had passed. I left her house knowing that if I ever moved back, at least I’d have one person.

I went back to California and stayed there for about two years before returning to Michigan. And those two years were crucial to my development. Middle school. Here, I learned who to hang out with, what to wear, how to wear make-up, and anything else that is pounded into a girl’s mind when she becomes a teenager. And apparently, these two years are when everyone changes. That’s just a fact, I’m not necessarily bitter about it, we all had to adjust to this new lifestyle of teen-hood. We suddenly cared about what we looked like, those little crushes grew into something more, and you found yourself following trend, like teasing that kid with everyone else. So, when I returned to my home state, I was really different. And so was Katie. I went to see her again and this time, it wasn’t the same. We didn’t talk to each other like we used to, and whenever we tried to do something, it just felt awkward. Missing those two very important years caused our friendship to dry up and float away, barely noticeable until we reunited. Not being together for those two years, we couldn’t go in the same paths. She chose a cheer team to hang out with, I chose the kids who hated the snobby cheerleaders. So, naturally we couldn’t connect from opposite sides of the world. It was hopeless. I had lost my best friend for good, but I still had my bunny pillow. I didn’t check if she still had hers.

So back to California I went, and another couple years passed before huge news came along. My family was moving back to Michigan. This news came us very unexpectedly, and was not welcome. None of us wanted to leave. The beautiful atmosphere of California had sucked us in. Places like that make you forget about what your life is really like. You’re so distracted by the weather, the nature, and the famous sights that you don’t pay attention to what the people are like or how miserable you are. Suddenly, saying that you live in California became enough to convince yourself that your life is perfectly fine, that all your friends are amazing and you’re happy with everything. So, under this influence, we never wanted to leave. But it had to happen or eventually we would’ve finally realized that our lives were terrible. So, after much debate and hesitation, we packed our bags and moved back the summer after my freshman year in high school. The part of this that was most accepted in my head was reuniting with some old friends who I had looked up on Facebook. (Yahoo had died, pretty much, and was only used for serious matters, all social interactions entirely moved to the glorious Facebook). One of these old friends was Katie. I went to see her soon after I got back.

It was a warm afternoon, sunny, blue skies, and a nice breeze. I decided to, instead of wasting it, ride my bike around the neighborhood. Things started out good, I knew where I was going, no one was around so I got some privacy, and a good-looking (shirtless) young man was playing basketball in one of the backyards I passed. Yes, everything was going great, until I decided to ride over to Katie’s house. I rode my bike in front of her big brown house over and over until finally getting the guts to go up and knock on the door. She answered, a little excited and a little happy to see me, just a little. Then she let me in. I walked right into the house that was my second home so many years before. It looked the same and smelled the same, but felt different. This house used to be my favorite place in the whole world. I used to sleep in that room upstairs all the time. I used to sit and watch Scooby Doo and Mary-Kate and Ashley on that cream colored couch. I used to love to sit in that hot-tub and just play around, always jealous that Katie could go under that boiling hot water while I was too scared to. I used to create other worlds with my best friend in that basement. It’s amazing how all that could happen so naturally when I was a little girl, but as a teenager, I walked in and couldn’t even think of how to keep a conversation with this girl, this new stranger. It was like we were meeting for the first time, like we never grew up together.

The same routine occurred. We tried to hang out, talk, burn time, but it was extremely awkward the whole time. I didn’t want to be rude and ask to leave, and she didn’t want to be rude and tell me to get out. It was just an all together awful experience and I wish I never went. I wish I accepted that we wouldn’t be friends instantly like she had obviously accepted long before that day happened. Every attempt at rekindling what we had as kids after that failed miserably. I used to be terribly bitter about the whole situation, but then I realized that when you move, you have to make new relationships and can’t rely on old friends to just take you in like five years weren’t missing from the relationship. So I did. I went out, got more social, and made new friends. Now, I’m very happy with my choices. I didn’t need Katie, and I still don’t need Katie. Although, I do still have that dingy old pillow. It still marks what we had years ago, a relationship like no other between two naïve minds, both too innocent to create anything negative. But on that awful day when I visited her again, I managed to weave somewhere into the minimal conversation we had the long awaited question, did she still have her bunny pillow? Her response was that a while before, she had lost it.

THE END





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