Recently, I finished reading Kristin Hannah’s novel Firefly Lane—an occasion which had me sobbing on my living room couch at two o’clock in the morning. The tear-jerker ending was, I’ll admit, a bit predictable. And I’m not sure if I honestly enjoyed the plot or the characters enough to warrant that kind of a response. I think what prompted my emotional reaction to the book was its exploration of friendship.
For those unacquainted, Firefly Lane centers around two friends who bond as lonely teenagers and journey through life’s ups and downs over a span of thirty years. Though a significant betrayal happens, the two characters reconcile just in time before…well, considering the fifteen-year-old novel recently has earned a Netflix adaptation, I should refrain from including any spoilers.
In essence, Firefly Lane is a tale of love, loss, nostalgia, loneliness, hurt, forgiveness and self-discovery. Friendship, too, of course. The novel’s theme of everlasting friendship is one that both intrigued and—in a way—saddened me. Although fictional, and therefore unrealistic at times, the two main characters in Firefly Lane had a bond which hardly wavered and caused them to remain close. For me, friendship has hardly been that simple.
I’m at a place in life right now where I’m lucky to have several genuine friends, but lately I’ve found myself mourning over several past friendships and people who are no longer in my life. One day we hung out for the last time without knowing it. One day I decided to stop reaching out first, and now the silence has lasted for years. The thing about those friendships is they ended quietly, gradually. There was no betrayal or big fight or harsh words we can’t take back. We just…drifted apart. And I’m coming to accept the fact that I might never know why.
Again, it is a little easier to grapple with past friendships when I’m currently blessed with some incredible, life-giving, ongoing friendships. Right now, especially in light of the significant life changes I experienced last year, I’m choosing to be grateful.
I’m grateful for the five incredible friends—and a cousin I’ve always considered a friend—who stood by my side during my wedding. I’m also grateful for the friends who sat in the church pews and celebrated with us on the dance floor on that hot, sticky day.
I’m grateful for the friends I don’t have the chance to see or talk to on a consistent basis, but I’m especially grateful for the way we always pick up where we left off as if no time has passed.
I’m grateful for my husband’s friends and their wives and the way we’re all becoming friends.
I’m grateful for the coworkers who have turned into friends, in my current job and in previous jobs.
I’m grateful for my future friends—the friends I have yet to make—and I’m grateful for the hope that this will be.
I’m even grateful for the friends who are no longer in my life. The times we shared were just right in those particular phases of life, and even if our friendship wasn’t meant to last, I’m grateful for the way our paths intertwined if only for a moment in time.
Mostly I’m just feeling grateful for friendship. Though Firefly Lane unleashed some yearning, I realize not every real-life friendship can compare to a forty-year-long fictional relationship. If anything, the book inspired me to examine my part in my friendships and be more intentional about being a good friend. Whether my friends and I spend five, ten, twenty or maybe even forty years together, I want to make the time count.
Kayleigh (Fongers) Van Wyk (’18) graduated with a degree in writing and resides in West Michigan. She works as a reporter for the Grand Rapids Business Journal and Grand Rapids Magazine while also making time for freelance writing. When she’s not behind a screen, she enjoys going for walks, eating ice cream, and buying more books than she’ll ever read.