Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Old Favorite From April 2007

Birthdays come and go, and so, sadly, do some friendships

by Amy L. Cornell Community columnist |
April 12, 2007

In college, my roommate and I shared the same birth month. Every year, as the calendar flipped from March to April, we began to plan the events that marked our collective birthday. We had parties for each other. We took out ads in the college daily, made banners to hang on the main campus sidewalk, arranged special dates for each other and made gifts. We went into the city for improv and out to dance clubs. We invited everyone we knew into our dorm room for gin and tonics. We reveled in our celebratory month. No birthday celebration before or after those giddy days in college would ever be the same.

Though I still celebrate birthdays, I no longer celebrate them with the intensity I did back then. The remembrance is bittersweet because my roommate and I — who sustained each other through exams and breakups and crushes and hangovers — ended our friendship several years after college. Like a bad marriage where every day ends in fighting, we also seemed to spend a lot of time being unhappy with each other.

Years after the ink was dry on the divorce decree of our friendship, I still don’t really understand what happened. It occurred to me as I flipped the calendar this month that I have not been friends with this person for longer than we were actually friends; yet because we were friends at a critical time, my memories of our coming of age together influence much of what I say and do, even 20 years later.

I recently read a novel where the main character ended a lifelong friendship because the friend did something truly despicable to her. Books nowadays have linked Web sites so you can interact with the author, and when you log on to the Web site for this novel, there is space to write about the true friend you made and lost. I read these stories for hours one afternoon. I discovered losing deep friendship is a universal experience.

Of course my college roommate is not the only friendship I have lost. There are dozens more people that I have known for brief periods of time that have left my life; most of those fall under the heading of “losing touch.” As everyone eventually discovers, there is not enough time in our lives to nurture every friendship, remember every birthday and still cook a nice dinner for our family. Losing touch and ending relationships is something that we all must do again and again.

Dear Abby used to write about an annual “mending fences day” in which she urged readers to pick up the phone and try to make amends with estranged friends and family. I have tried to do that once or twice with my old roommate, but the friendship has gone so long in need of maintenance that it is beyond repair. I gracefully accept that this relationship is over.

I am grateful, of course, for my many friends in Bloomington and beyond. I have a rich array of witty, caring, talented friends I am lucky to know and count as part of my extended family. I still have college mates I see now and again and with whom I exchange e-mails and phone calls. Birthdays are usually happy days spent in the company of my family and friends. The weather is generally good by April, and I can enjoy a bike ride or a tea party, but there is always this loose thread of longing running through the month. As much as I needed to end that friendship, I still miss her very much.

So join me, will you? Pull up a chair and have a gin and tonic and toast to friendships gone by. And wherever you are in this world, old roommate, know that I am thinking of you as our birthday month drifts by.

Amy Cornell’s column appears every other Thursday in The Herald-Times. You can reach her at

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