Missing Michelle

This rem­i­nis­cence about los­ing friends due to reli­gion is brought to you cour­tesy of pro­cras­ti­na­tion and an entry danuv posted.

I met Michelle because we both played flute in the mid­dle school band. She’d just moved to our coun­ty near the end of the 8th grade. We became good friends, though we did­n’t have much in com­mon oth­er than play­ing the flute, low self-esteem, and a cat­ty sense of humor. I made her try out for sym­phon­ic band instead of set­tling for con­cert band and laughed at her shock when she placed high­er than I did. She start­ed singing along with me when I played the piano and sang (at her moth­er’s request)—now she’s in much demand for wed­dings. I’m rather proud of that. We dou­ble-dat­ed and talked about every­thing on earth. I saw her blos­som after she dis­cov­ered drama.

When we first met, she and her fam­i­ly were your basic “cul­tur­al Chris­tians.” They’d gone to a Con­gre­ga­tion­al church in New Hamp­shire and had­n’t attend­ed any kind of church since mov­ing to Georgia. 

Then she met Glen through the march­ing band. Glen went to my church. I knew Glen quite well. I did not approve of Michelle dat­ing Glen, to be honest—he did­n’t have a very nice rep­u­ta­tion. He was one of those hyp­o­crit­i­cal ass­holes who is extreme­ly Chris­t­ian on Sun­day morn­ing while he’s nurs­ing a hang­over from Sat­ur­day night. He’d gone out with my oth­er best friend once and she had to threat­en him severe bod­i­ly harm before he’d take her home from their first date because he had decid­ed that they WERE going park­ing and he was going to get some.

I nev­er liked the way his moth­er very obvi­ous­ly ran their fam­i­ly, either—it just seemed unbal­anced. His father was a dea­con, but it felt like he just spoke for his wife because she was­n’t allowed to be one (South­ern Bap­tist women unof­fi­cial­ly con­trol the mon­ey, but aren’t allowed to do much of any­thing offi­cial­ly). No, it isn’t fair to hold that against him, but I don’t claim to be fair.

And Glen was beige. I mean—really. The guy is beige. If you met him, you prob­a­bly would­n’t remem­ber him. Just a non-enti­ty for the most part, unless he was being lecherous.

Michelle was Glen’s “set­tling down” girl. He got very, very fun­da­men­tal­ist sud­den­ly. I’m talk­ing lit­er­al­ly burn­ing his exten­sive col­lec­tion of heavy met­al albums. She went to church with him. She got “saved.” She went into the reverse of that blos­som­ing stage. Instead of being out­go­ing and bub­bling over with naughty quips and going out to Rocky Hor­ror after cast par­ties, she was out wit­ness­ing. Her fam­i­ly end­ed up join­ing the church, too. They all got reli­gion in a big way. Hey, instant community!

She was my maid of hon­or the first time I got mar­ried. I was in her first wed­ding, to Glen, despite my reservations—and hers. See, I was divorced by then, and I could very clear­ly feel her dis­ap­proval. I was­n’t her maid of hon­or for that rea­son, because I was­n’t a “maid” any­more. There’s no divor­cée of hon­or. She sang at my sec­ond wed­ding, though, and she and Glen came to my par­ents’ house to see Katie when we vis­it­ed for Katie’s first Christmas.

We’d stopped real­ly being friends, though, well before I mar­ried Wayne. I actu­al­ly told her, once, when she called “just to see if every­thing was okay” that if she was only going to call because she was the “sun­shine direc­tor” for our Sun­day school class, she sim­ply should­n’t call me. She splut­tered and was offend­ed, but that was obvi­ous­ly the case—she had noth­ing to say unless I missed church, then she was on the phone by Sun­day evening.

She was one of the few peo­ple who came to vis­it me in the hos­pi­tal after my sui­cide attempt. She tried to con­vince me that I was only depressed because I “need(ed) Jesus.” I attempt­ed to have a real con­ver­sa­tion with her about why I’d left the Chris­t­ian church, and she just kept repeat­ing the damned scripts from all those “wit­ness­ing train­ing class­es.” (Those should not ever be used with some­one who has had the same cours­es.) I final­ly gave up and asked her to just leave.

I still miss Michelle. It’s sil­ly because we haven’t been close for well over a decade. But I still see things that make me think of her, and I still wish I could hear the per­son I still think of as “the real Michelle” give her opin­ion on some­thing at times. I call her every year on her birth­day. We do have some things in common—we’re moth­ers with blend­ed fam­i­lies. She met her cur­rent hus­band online. But she’s still extreme­ly fun­da­men­tal­ist and “sub­mit­ting” to a hus­band who, from what I know of him, isn’t fit to shine her shoes. (I haven’t met him, but I don’t like what I hear through my fam­i­ly.) Every year, she says my call makes her feel guilty. My birth­day is six days before hers and she’s nev­er called then, though she has my number.

I’ve always sent Katie’s out­grown cloth­ing through my moth­er and her moth­er to her daugh­ter. She has always appre­ci­at­ed the cloth­ing. I’ve yet to see her daugh­ter. I’ve made over­tures of friend­ship, tried to breach the gap—but the reli­gious dif­fer­ences still out­weigh every­thing else. I’m Not Chris­t­ian. I am The Ene­my. We can chat and laugh and all dur­ing that one year­ly call, but there’s a wall there because I’m apostate.

I’ve got­ten a feel­ing, a few times, that I’m threat­en­ing because I remem­ber “the real Michelle” and would love to see her emerge again. I’d love to know how that per­son who cel­e­brat­ed her pow­er and tal­ent and beau­ty has grown, how much more incred­i­ble she’d be at 36 than she was at 16. I’d love to see Michelle turn around, one day, and say, “Why don’t you ever cook din­ner? Exact­ly why is it that I’m going to school full-time, work­ing full-time, and doing all the child care and house­keep­ing while you screw around with unwork­able ‘busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties’ and nev­er actu­al­ly bring home a paycheck?”

I doubt that will hap­pen. But I’ll keep call­ing her every year on Novem­ber 18, and I hope that some­day I’ll hear that vibrance in her voice again.

Cur­rent Mood: 🤔nos­tal­gic
Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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