This was our breakup, not theirs.
Six months after I moved 20 miles north and four towns away, she dumped me. Twelve years as neighbors and confidantes down the drain.
We spent 8 years keeping an eye on each other's infant monitors, hoisting toddlers on the tree swing between sips of afternoon coffee and US Weekly gossip, and laughing on the front wall as we witnessed the progression from tricycles to two wheelers. Gone.
She wrote the final send-off in an email after I poked at her distant tone along with her repeated lack of availability to visit my new home and (more importantly) get our children together.
Guilty, overwhelmed, and pressured were the words she used. My definition of requirements for friendship proved jarring to the healthy life balance she'd worked hard to create. Making adjustments wasn't an option.
The explanation was thin: The word "me" appeared so many times in her note that by the end of it, my diaphragm felt primed for an operatic performance. In reality, I was no longer a convenient source of daily company. I no longer served a purpose so I got kicked out of her cocoon.
I should've seen the breakup coming.
At the school carnival when I passed her huddled on the stairs with a mommy crew, I was met with a weak smile and passing glance instead of an introduction.
She was too consumed by her third child's birthday party to pop in to the "Welcome to the Neighborhood" brunch my husband and I threw for the couple buying our home, which I organized just so she could meet them.
The evening we attended the same jewelry party a short drive from my new house and she said, "I'll see you there" when I asked her to swing by and see my family beforehand.
When the person I thought of as a lifelong ally referred to me in her aria email as old friend.
I didn't see the wall she meticulously crafted between us. The rays from her wise spirit and capacity to love glistened through its cracks and into my sons' hearts long enough to distract me from the stone. I saw only a valued pal, so when she severed the connection it broke my heart.
Two years estranged have convinced me of what her send off suggested: I was worthy of a better friend. She was right.
Then why was it that when I was introduced to a woman at a recent networking event who knew her, my stomach still twisted with fury? My lingering disgust doesn't stem from our lost ties, but for our children's lost friendship.
These young people deserve more. They deserve the chance to nurture the bond they made as babies, enjoy the experience of aging together, reminisce about the days when they hollered to one another from their second floor windows, and test drove the electric powered pink Cadillac on Christmas morning.
They deserve to remember when they raced down my driveway on scooters until dusk, shot hoops off the garage, ran through sprinklers, sleighed in the park, sang at each other's birthday parties, and negotiated with their mothers to play a little longer.
Our children went from quasi-siblings to strangers in a blink because two grown-ups couldn't take themselves out of the equation.
Eight years is a small period in our adult lives, but it's a large percentage of their childhood. And I can't help but believe my older son and her two daughters will always feel a loss.
On the quest for closure, I seek answers to the unanswered.
I wonder if she knows that my former colleague (and her babysitter) told me that her first-born asked about my son every week after we moved.
I wonder if, when my husband and son spontaneously stopped by her house after the fall out, she knows the same daughter peeked through the bay window, raced to let them inside, gave them huge smile and said, "I thought that was your car."
Would she care to know my son still begs for us to be friends again? Does she have a good reason why she never responded to my child's handwritten letter, addressed to her, requesting a play date?
Could she possibly have ignored my husband's efforts to send holiday cards accompanied by a request to get the kids together?
Each time I come up empty, my husband shakes his head and says, "The whole thing is a shame. It's not right."
The last time our son saw his friends, the younger daughter confessed in the confines of the basement playroom, "We almost forgot about you." I suppose that's what my former neighbor wanted: a clean break up for us mommies and fading memories for her children.
I wish circumstances were different. I wish for my son and her daughters' sakes she and I could find middle ground. We adults may have closed the door on our relationship, but our children shouldn't have to do the same.
This was our breakup, not theirs.