Before It Gets Complicated

He watches her first from afar. She runs to the swings and Archer's eyes follow. He kicks the sand and looks back at me and then out at her. He waits for her to notice him but she's too busy climbing the ladder to the slide. Up she climbs and down she goes and Archer continues watching. He watches until he becomes self-conscious and looks back at me. I'm watching him and he knows it. Gives me a look like, "stop looking at me, mom. Can't you see I'm busy. I'm doing something, here. I'm figuring stuff out."

I look away. Don't want to embarrass him. I rock Fable in my arms and blink sideways, spying through my sunglasses as Archer casually makes his way to her. Looking back at me to make sure I'm not looking. Until he forgets about me. Stops looking back.

My friends used to be all boys. Because when you're little it doesn't matter who's carrying what equipment. There is little pressure. Few repercussions. No one understands their bodies yet. What makes a girl a girl and a boy a boy. No one gets drunk and accidentally has sex. There is little risk of violent jealousy or jealous girlfriends/boyfriends who forbid relationships with friends of the opposite sex. There's no marriage. There's just... the occasional hand holding under the swings.

About a year ago I met a guy at a bar. A little harmless flirting ensued over cocktails and cigarettes on the patio. He asked me my name and in return gave me his. He asked me where I was from and in turn told me his story. He had recently graduated from college and moved west to pursue film and music. He had a band. He casually mentioned his childhood in New Jersey. The small town he grew up in, outside of Princeton where his father was a professor. The story became familiar. The name of the town. His last name. Until. Wait. What did you say your last name was again? What was the name of that town? Oh my God. I know you. I knew you.

As it turned out, we had been friends before. In New Jersey where I was born. Our fathers worked together and our mothers were best friends. The world was pea-sized and we were clutching it together, slurring our mutual words of disbelief.

"Your name," I said, "was my first word. Your name!"

I shook my head until I went cross-eyed and he just laughed. He laughed and then I laughed and then he called his mother who was asleep and I called my mother who was dreaming.

"You were my first friend," I told him. "We were two-years-old..."

"It's been twenty-five years, then, since we last saw each other. I don't know that there is anyone else in the world I can say that to. "

Attracted to each other by fate or familiarity, we both spent the remainder of the evening trying to catch up, old friends that never made it past the dawn of our lives... What if I never moved away? I kept thinking. Would our friendship have lasted into the afternoon?


I watch Archer and think back on that night. It was well over a year ago when it happened. We exchanged phone numbers and promised to get together. Meet for drinks. Dinner. That I would come out and see his band play. We promised one another we would absolutely remain friends because what were the chances!??? Old friends from New Jersey meeting at a bar in downtown Los Angeles all these years later? Unable to recognize one another because we were two-years-old when I moved away? It had to have been a sign of somewhat.

Or maybe it was just life.

We texted each other several times. Made plans that fell through. Never saw each other again. It's complicated, now. Too complicated, perhaps to re-friend a man who used to be a boy I bathed naked with in my mother's garden.

He's in a band, you know? He lives in a loft with a bunch of dudes and I have two kids and I'm married andandandand.... It's just, you know -- what it is.

"Maybe we'll run into each other again. Or something," I think.

I don't know why watching my son play with my friend's daughter makes me think of this man I don't know but once did: The boy who was my first word.

I think, maybe I should call him. Nah, I remind myself. What would be the point? I have plenty of childhood friends I no longer speak to. Teenage friends I have long lost contact with. Highschool friends. Adult friends. Boys that became men. Relationships that became complicated because of sex and drinking. Drugs. Girlfriends and boyfriends and lines that should not have been crossed but were. Mistakes of mine. Mistakes of theirs. Love lost and found and confused and "I love you, too. But not like that..."

Less complicated.

I miss my friends.
The ones that got away. The boy friends who were never boyfriends. Our adventures on skateboards. Our trips to the desert. Bunched up in the passenger seats of beat-up trucks. Poop-jokes and take-out and smoking cigarettes out of bedroom windows. Trading mix-tapes and quoting movies and drinking out of each other's plastic cups.

It changes when you get married. When you have kids. It gets complicated. And that's okay. I'm happy, here, feet in the sand, watching Archer experiment with friendship. Letting go of fading photographs to make way for digital cameras.

I just... I miss Andrew. Even though I never really knew him. I miss him. I miss all of them. And watching my son play with his girlfriends makes me think of all the boys I loved and lost. The friendships that seemed iron clad when we were young. The friendship bracelets and trees carved up with our names, promises we would always be close. Like brother and sister. "Forever," we told each other and ourselves.

It's sad to know, in retrospect, we were wrong.

I guess sometimes I just miss the days when it wasn't so damn complicated. When men and women were boys and girls. When it was just two people who loved the swings.



sweetmelissa818 | 4:32 PM

I know exactly what you mean. As of now I have 3 friends and they all live nowhere near me (I'm in New Mexico, two of them are in North Carolina, and one is in California). I only see the one thats in Cali and I miss it. I miss having friends. I don't even talk to my husband enough to satisfy my non baby talking quota each day.
Less complicated would be nice, but still, I wouldn't trade my girls for the world.
Oh, yeah. Archer's adorable!

Unknown | 4:47 PM
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amber | 4:48 PM

sweet post.

Unknown | 4:53 PM

What a beautiful post...and so true. I think, as adults, we tend to long for the days when things were less complicated...when we were too young to appreciate it. But, I think that's one of the reasons why we have help us remember.

EdenSky | 4:57 PM

Sweet post. Makes me feel lonely though, and guilty for taking my daughter away from the boys next door who were her very best friends until we moved a couple of months ago...although I haven't had to tell anyone to stop peeing on toys in the backyard since then which is a plus.

Your escalator operator | 5:00 PM

Wonderful post - really enjoyed reading this. I don't stay in touch with too many old friends, but I still think it would be cool to have one of those chance meetings.

Anonymous | 5:35 PM

great post and so true. friendship is so hard as adults. its impossible sometimes to make it all work. i guess thats why i resort to stalking....

Anonymous | 6:50 PM

oh, this college girl is going through all of this for the first time and now i've got this huge ball in my throat that's making it hard to breathe.

April | 6:56 PM

isn't it funny, though, how when we're young we think things will be so easy and manageable when we're grown-ups. heh.

Bellamarin | 7:02 PM

I just love your writing. My 3 yr old daughter has a close boyfriend also 3 who lives next door and we are great friends with his parents. I keep finding myself wondering how idillic it is and how long it will last. So sad but probably inevitable. Now I think I will go cry

Anonymous | 7:07 PM

Lord, I love this post.

Unknown | 8:10 PM

Great post. Now it's got me all nostalgic. The only small difference is that my husband was actually my best friend when we were 11, then we lost contact, dated in high school, lost touch again and now we're married. (Two years today!) So my nostalgia also includes the guy I ended up with, which is sweet.

Awesome, nostalgic post. And as always, precious pics.

And since I couldn't comment on the "boy friends who were never boyfriends" -- Ricky Gervais?! His partner was Ricky Gervais? How frickin' cool is THAT?

Backpacking Dad | 8:13 PM

Oh look at that.

I'm all fangirling to your NKOTB.

Anonymous | 8:50 PM

So beautifully put. I am the single mother to an 8 year old boy. I often feel blessed that my experience with my guy friends growing up prepared me for my journey of raising a boy by myself. Just today I was reflecting on my current friendships - some are married, but most without children (for now). And when they have children, I will be able to relate in some ways. But while they are dealing with diapers and midnight feedings, I will be dealing with sports, book reports and all of the eye-rolling that goes along with parenthood. Sometimes I long for the days when it was just about going out and having fun without remembering that I will have to be a functional parent in the morning. But I would never trade a second of what I have now and the little man that I am raising for the life I once had.

Thanks for such a poignant post.

Shannon | 9:47 PM

That was beautiful and hits right to the core. Thank you.

Anonymous | 10:14 PM

although i could eat pictures of your spawn for breakfast lunch and dinner, you know this is what i live on. thank for you for delivering before deadline. i was going to give you at least until next week to casually shoot an ice pick through my heart. well done.

Rachael | 12:01 AM

You are an absolutely amazing writer. What a wonderful post.

katarina | 12:32 AM

Your post reminds me of couple of very precious special smiles I witnessed on my under 4y old son's face.
First time I saw it I asked what he is thinking. He named a girl and said that she likes to play with him. Second time they met at a shop and they both had the same faint smile for moment.

Anonymous | 3:16 AM

Great, now I'm all weepy. Lovely, touching post.

Anonymous | 3:37 AM

That was just beautiful.

Unknown | 5:22 AM

That an awesome post, I feel like that all the time!!! I miss my guys friends!!

Don Mills Diva | 6:30 AM

And THIS is why I keep coming back here.

Beautiful post.

pamela | 7:19 AM

ahhh, yeas the good ol' daze.

Anonymous | 7:38 AM

absolutely adorable post. <3

Melina | 7:44 AM

This post is so relevant to my life right now. I've been out of college now for more than three (what?! how??) years and every Wednesday before Thanksgiving I still rush home to see most of my good friends from High School. Except for one, "the one" that nothing ever happened with. Every other day of the year he doesn't even enter my mind, but on that day I feel like I'm 14 again. Butterflies and all.

Anonymous | 8:37 AM


Sometimes your posts touch me so much, I feel silly for how much I am moved. Thank-you Rebecca.


Anonymous | 8:54 AM


Anonymous | 9:17 AM

So So true. Great post. New visitor :-D

It's funny when you watch your child grow up and see the innocence that we didn't realize was there when we were their age.

Amy | 11:15 AM

You said it had been a little while since you posted with "actual words." But what a way to come back with some actual and truly, beautiful words. Thank you for this post. It makes me nostalgic for the friends I've lost touch with and deeply grateful for the ones I've kept for decades.

Lindsay | 12:50 PM

great post.

Rhea | 2:55 PM

Life is unnecessarily complicated.

That's so amazing you ran into him and realized who he was. What are the chances?!!

JachiCue | 4:03 PM

I love the way you write.

Also love Archer observing from afar. Great shot.

Petra a.k.a The Wise (*Young*) Mommy | 4:41 PM

Awesome fucking post and I can so relate. I had so many incredible friends, guys and girls, that I thought I would never be without... but now I am. And I wouldn't even know how to go back and capture what we had just kinda...gets in the way.

Marisa | 6:23 PM

The cutest damn thing I've seen in a while... wow, I vaguely remember those innocent days :)

Emsxiety | 8:00 PM

Love the photos. So innocent and sweet.

Meganithappen | 9:14 PM

My first time on your site - and I can promise you I will be back. You had me at "he watches..."

Beautifully written.

Anonymous | 1:09 AM

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Anonymous | 7:45 AM

I know what you mean, too. Weird how much things change and absolutely lovely pictures!

Anonymous | 10:25 AM

Wow! Thanks for this beautiful post.

Anonymous | 1:40 PM

This. Exactly this.

God, how are you able to always say what I'm thinking?! It's kind of freaky, you know. ;)

My best friend in the universe was a guy I've known since birth. And we're still a way. But he's married and lives 4 hours away, and I'm married with a kid, and it's just not the same. He and his wife (who's lovely) visit when they're in the area, and we talk about jobs and vacations and future plans, but it's just...not the same. Not like when we played video games for hours and drove all day just to be at the beach for sunset and laid on my bed all afternoon talking about the world we wanted to see one day.

And it makes me sad. That through nobody's fault, we lost that. Just because we kind of had to. Because we're the "grown-ups" now.


Anonymous | 2:58 PM

You've articulated what I've spent 16 years trying to. My Andrew was Matthew. We lived across the street from one another, and our mothers were best friends. Matt's mom committed suicide when we were 12. His Dad asked us to stop calling, claiming it was too hard for Matt to move on and deal with his grief when he was constantly reminded of his mom. To this day I don't know if that's what Matt wanted, or if he thinks we chose to walk away. One day he was my best friend; the next I was dealing with the grief of two losses. Matt and I used to tell each other "Forever" too; I often think about him and hope he's happy.

Thank you for putting words to what I never could.

Anonymous | 4:55 PM

I miss when making friends was as simple as approaching someone at the swings. I miss hugging people just because you saw that they needed it, without over-thinking how it would be received. I miss falling asleep like a litter of puppies, your limbs entangled with those of your friends, because you tired yourselves out laughing.

I wonder how many people secretly feel this way. I wish it was ok to say so out loud. It would be nice to have "real" friends again.

Stephanie Greenwell | 10:24 AM

I always love to read your posts and there are so many adjectives to describe them: funny, witty, nostalgic, teary-eyed, you name it! i don't get to visit often, but I love coming here for a laugh and oh, for the wonderful writing!

congrats on fable! i bet archer is the best big bro, next to mine, of course!

missouri girl

Sally | 11:52 AM

Wow! What a post! No words...

Katopotato | 12:04 PM

Totally captured it. Just 'friended' on Facebook the boy I lived with from 19 to 22. Am much older now. That feeling of nostalgia doesn't go away.

Bridge | 12:22 PM

I also just "friended" one of my early childhood friends - who was a boy and is now a man - on Facebook. You captured the nostalgia so beautifully. I am very much enjoying catching up via IM and wall posts - learning about his wife and little boy and dogs and laughing at all the ways in which his son is like the little boy I knew so long ago.

auntie | 2:08 PM

This made me want to cry.

Unknown | 4:52 PM

Archer is well on his way to heterosexuality! Yay! Congratulations, you didn't screw up as a parent.

(sarcasm is sometimes difficult to interpret online. But all my words to you are intended with so much affection, even love!)

sweetsalty kate | 5:07 PM

This was totally gorgeous, oh, my. That made me wish things weren't so complicated, even still.

Robyn | 6:11 PM

I loved this. Thank you.

Anonymous | 7:08 AM

"The boy who was my first word"... are you kidding me? That's so heartbreakingly sweet and poetic. I stand amazed.

Pgoodness | 8:11 AM

This was so true and good. Thanks for writing it.

Anonymous | 1:03 PM

im crying....

Susanlee | 8:37 PM

My first time on your blog and you go and make me cry! Mean! Seriously though, great post...I miss that too.

Booba Juice | 12:06 PM

I have never found it put a better way. I felt as if I were reading my own story!!! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous | 8:40 PM

My son's very best friend is a little girl. I kind of hope they'll grow up together and get married.

I think you should call your friend. Life is complicated, but not so much we can't control HOW complicated.

Anonymous | 3:14 PM

Things do change. I used to have mostly male friends. Now my male friends are more acquaintances who I invite to parties, but don't hang out with one-on-one or call when I need someone to talk with.

I guess it's better that way. They have girlfriends who probably wouldn't like it and I have a boyfriend who probably wouldn't like it. Oh well.

Anonymous | 8:25 AM

If no one else has told you, I will tell you to go listen to When I Was A Boy by Dar Williams. Great post.

Finelly | 8:46 AM

Wow, reading you for the first time and...I am wondering why I didn't find you faster. Love your blog. You make me want to blog again...
Anyhoo, you are so right - it does get complicated. You want to reconnect with the past, but things are different now and really, what is the point? Life is about moving forward, not backwards. Here here, my friend.

Anonymous | 8:20 PM

i freaking love how you can make those simple photographs come to life with your words. you are amazing. the photos are amazing. nostalgia is amazing. thank god we had those experiences to make us who we are today. i hope you reconnect with your friend. just because it's the coolest story ever.

FM | 7:40 AM

I love this. You have a beautiful way of articulating what I think are unarticuable feelings. Did that make sense? So now that you found him on facebook what happens...