This guest post is the second in a series from my cousin Mara Lewis chronicling her relationship with Jay.
One. Two. Three. WAR! I won him back. Six months later, yes, but I won him back. James is no longer a toddler, but a boy approaching kindergarten. Two summers ago, he and I got along great. We picked blueberries in Papa Bill’s backyard, drew pictures on my iPhone, and walked down to the harbor together. After our Maine vacation that summer, I felt closer than ever with Jay.
I also felt that our relationship from then on would only get better. James would be thrilled to see me, eager to play, and always ready to cuddle. Unfortunately for me, four-year-old James didn’t look at things the same way. We hit what I’d call a rough patch in our relationship.
When I approached him for a hug, he scooted away. It wasn’t because he was shy, although I preferred to think that was the reason. Really the reason was he just didn’t like my hugs. I wouldn’t say that Jay was cold to me, but he wasn’t particularly friendly either. At age 21, I was old enough to understand that his behavior was just his being a kid, but too young not to let it hurt my feelings (although I wonder whether you ever grow old enough not to feel hurt by that kind of rebuff).
This Christmas, after another six months had passed, I spent the week in Maine with Jay and the rest of my extended family. By this time, I’d significantly lowered my expectations for our relationship.
Thankfully, my lowered expectations served only to magnify the improvement in our relationship. Good news everyone! Our relationship recovered. For whatever reason, or perhaps for no reason at all, Jay decided to be my friend again.
Let it be known, I may have made this choice somewhat simple for him. I taught him how to play War, recited the same joke over and over and over again at his request, and willingly allowed him to jump all over me. The joke, about a duck walking into a bar asking for grapes, had James bursting with laughter each time I came to the punch line. He then asked that I not only tell him the (somewhat lengthy) joke nine more times, but that I also tell it to each person in our family, one at a time. James had mostly outgrown his two-year-old cuddly nature, but he was still certainly capable of being cute.
By Thursday, day five of our weeklong vacation, our improved relationship was visible to the whole family. Jay’s mother, walked into the living room to find us playing a competitive round of War. James and I both put down an ace, One. Two. Three. WAR!
“Jay, is Mara your best friend now?” his mother asked.
“No, Mom.” Jay replied with a smirk on his face.
I felt my heart sink, but I wouldn’t let Jay see my disappointment. I continued with our game as if unscathed by his comment. Minutes later, I couldn’t help ask him again
“So Jay, who is your best friend?”
James turned red in the face. Before answering, he slid off the couch and walked to the living room door. He peaked out, confirming that no one was about to enter. He then plopped back on the couch, lifted his pointer finger to his mouth, and whispered “shhh.” He cupped his hand around his mouth, and moved his small body to my left ear. “Her name is Anna. We had a play date last week.”
“Do you like her?” I asked.
He glanced over his shoulder to once again make sure that we were the only ones in the room. “Yes.” He said. “But don’t tell anyone.”
It was then that I no longer felt the pang of disappointment that had struck me just minutes before. Jay didn’t call me his best friend. But he had confided in me, which to me was equally as telling. I felt close to Jay. And while I imagine this closeness meant more to me than it did to him, I think he felt it too.