"Hey, Ashley and some of the other neighborhood kids are playing in her yard across the street. Want to go see if you can join them?" I asked, sitting down on the floor of her room. I had to be careful where I sat - the only light came in around the blinds on the windows, and there were ornaments everywhere. Apparently, I was raising a mole or a bat or something.
"Nah," she said, looking at the floor.
"Come on, this is the last nice day we're supposed to get for a week or more. Get your boots and go say hello."
"Dad said I had to pack up my Christmas tree."
"The Christmas tree can wait. It's 35 degrees and sunny, and there are kids playing outside. Go take advantage of the opportunity."
"I said hello to Ashley one day when I was walking home from the bus, and I know she heard me, and she didn't say anything back. I don't think she wants to be my friend." She continued the World's Slowest Christmas Tree Un-Decorating, taking one ornament at a time off of the tree, slowly trudging across the room and putting it on her bed.
"You know, there have been plenty of times in your life when I've said something to you at a perfectly normal volume, and you haven't responded. Sometimes you didn't hear me, sometimes you were distracted by something else, sometimes you didn't feel like talking. Chances are, Ashley wasn't trying to shun you, that's just in your mind." In my mind, I am wincing - how many times had I given up on a friendship with someone over some perceived slight or lack of attention? How often had that been in my head, rather than an intentional move by the other person?
"I don't want to go over there. I feel like I would be butting in." My heart breaks a little at that statement, which came out of my own mouth about a million times as I was growing up.
"You don't have to join them. You could just go say hi, then come back to our yard. Or you could see if Ashley wanted to come see your snow cave. I bet you could both fit in there, don't you think?"
"We probably could," she said, sounding a little more enthusiastic. "But I couldn't fit all of them in there at once. They'd have to take turns." Then she stopped smiling and slowly moved another ornament over to the bed. "See, you always do this. I don't want to do something, and then you start talking about it, and then I start adding on things like I want to do it or something. I don't want to talk about it."
"Too bad. Look, everyone feels unsure when they're meeting new people. I bet you'd really like to go and play with them, but you're afraid that they won't want to play with you, and that's keeping you from going over. Haven't you been complaining for the past week that your only friend who lives nearby was out of town? You're not going to make new friends by hiding in the house, Chief."
"I don't want new friends. I want my old friends to be closer. Can we call K.'s mom again, see if she changed her mind about letting K. come over?"
"Look, I'm glad you're still friends with K., but that doesn't change the fact that it would be nice to have friends who live closer than a half-hour drive away. It's important that you meet people in the neighborhood. and you are running out of time, for today at least. You want to know my prediction? You're going to hem and haw and fart around, and then you'll finally decide to go say hello - and they won't be outside anymore."
"Is this your ornament, or the one I made?" she asked, holding up two clay candy canes. "See what I'm doing? I don't want to talk about going outside, so I'm changing the subject."
"Yeah, that was subtle. I'm going downstairs," I said, then went over to the window to open the blinds. The sun streamed in, glittering off of the ornaments that remained on her tree. "And, oh, look!" I said with feigned surprise, "the kids have all gone inside now. You're safe once again from making a new friend. Congratulations." My stomach roiled and I scowled as I stomped down the stairs, not sure if I was more angry with her for today's Failure to Befriend, or myself for all of my own identical missed opportunities.