Yeah, I grew up without playmates. I had imaginary friends, dolls and stuffed animals. I liked the cats and the cattle, but mostly, I was left on my own devices. Sure, while my dad worked in the restaurant, grandparents with the cattle, I was usually playing either outside or inside, probably under my uncle's supervision. I think. I remember him taking care of me twice alone.
Remembering childhood for me is a painful experience. There are a lot of things I'd love to forget, but also things I'd love to have still around. I loved playing with dolls/toy horses/cars alone, but I do remembering being introduced to the eldest grandchild of our neighbors. There weren't many girls my age along our home road. Most were several years older, in their teens or just 3-4 years older.
She was my only friend for years, there was always something odd between me and other kids my age, we never got perfectly along and I was even bullied for my family situation. Our tiny friend group was mostly just me, Juha, year younger than me, Henna and Janne, two years younger, Miika and Henna's little brothers, Teppo and Tommi. That was the core crew. We mostly played in Henna's home yard and her grandparents' yard (right next to each other and Janne and Miika were Henna's cousins). They were rarely allowed to visit me, their parents were strict, but I think my grandparents were fine, we were playing in an area with near constant observation, or was it because I was the eldest and Juha the most sensible, I dunno.
Henni was decent, but a quiet friend until she changed with her other friends and just... pushed me too far. There are things I don't tolerate and she harped me about my favorite hockey team (also the team that got me bullier too) once too much.
Henna and I weren't close at school, she hung around her two classmates (only three girls total) and I hung alone or was swamped by younger kids, who, for some reason, liked me. Or tried to avoid my bullies. After school, however, she had remarkable patience, to deal with my stupid antics, that I wish I could erase from their memory and also from my own. I'm haunted by my past if I don't bury myself with something that keeps my brain busy. I do miss our playground shenanigans and our shared barbie doll hobby, but we just... drifted apart.
There was a time I was called often to play in their place for the evening until they had to get home, so I biked back. Last time we probably talked, was when I bought off Teppo's Dragoon Beyblade and got her old Shakira CD and she told how she had been bullied by her old friends in the junior high, which I only knew as hell. It changed everybody. Me into more quiet but wrathful wraith, who wanted nothing more than murder and her into a stranger. I... I don't even know when we really stopped seeing each other, maybe when I got a car. I've seen her twice after that. Once selling burgers at a grill and second time, walking out of a store. No hellos were said. Friendship was officially over. She can live however she wants, I have no interest in her life anymore since she never has tried to contact me. We had been friends by just my grandparents wanting me to grow up with contact with other kids. It didn't usually go down well. I always played by my own rules. Time crumbled our tight-knit little group huddling in the playhouse as dinosaurs in a cave to dust that blew it away.
I've never gotten along with people, loneliness made me into a really... introverted person. I kept to myself, I never felt the sense of... belonging to something or somewhere. It was normal for me. All I had known my whole life. I didn't have cousins or siblings. Not close to my age or even close to where I lived. In junior high and later, in senior high, I had a small group of friends, who refused to let me go, so I just stuck around, we made a shitty "movie" just for the fuck of it. We were always together at school and used mostly messenger when I finally got internet and phone. (7th grade). I was finally with likeminded people. Artistic, outcast, imaginative people. Anna is probably still the dearest friend of those hellish years in junior high, only one who was more like me. We could chat for hours, I still wish we had time for that.... but, as unemployed, I have time. As a working woman, she doesn't have it that much.
Jenna is one who has stuck to me like velcro since I just randomly started talking with her in junior high. Year younger but had more in common with me than anyone else. Probably ever. Raised by grandparents as well. We've been doll collecting a couple of years now together and chat almost every day. I know I'm not the easiest friend nor the most reliable, but I try. I am selfish, that's a fact and it stems from my childhood. I didn't need to share. Lesson hardest to learn.
Some friends from schools do stick around and I appreciate that they still haven't fucking unfriended me on facebook, something I have been familiar with, but I have also unfriended a bunch. Whom I don't talk with and don't care, I don't keep around. That has included maternal uncle's whole family, I've known them only a little while, not long enough to make an impact on me. Well, only on confirming that Southern-Ostrobothnians are the type of people only locals can handle. We are unapologetic shit, and I'm not apologizing for that. Fuck no.
From Joutseno, Sonja was the third outcast, along with me and JiliaSala. She is like a huge chunk of gold. She and her family welcomed us with open arms after school was over and we form this odd trinity. Jilia sits quietly and does her own thing, Sonja and I talk a mile a minute and die of tea-overdose-laughter. We play cards or board games, share shitty school stories, anime, Pokemon, dolls, trading cards... She's another one like us both, not too many friends left. She's a bit like a sister to us both. A home away from home. Someone with always time and open heart.
Raimo and I got a weird start, but that guy's grown on me. Not that way though. He is hilarious and a real gamer, while I'm more of a mood gamer. I play when I feel like it. He was my work partner for some months and gawd, those months were full of laughter and bullshitting. Also, since I had moved to Kemi, far from the glass globe I felt like I was in when in Lapua, I felt like I could be friends with a guy and not have speculations run wild. The guys at work treated me good and I was treated like an equal again. Sure, my elementary classmates always counted me like half a guy, because I was more robust than the girls and wasn't a giggling boy-cooty-phobic. Dude still pops in unannounced, ringing a doorbell sometimes at odd hours, scaring the living daylights out of us, but we don't get many visitors, so I don't mind. I've never had a friend like that, who willingly just comes by to bullshit with you.
Online friends, they are a colorful bunch. Longest term friends come all the way from my first year of having internet and some even managed to fly to our wedding. I'm just... floored, how we can start chatting and still, despite some are less active since they have their own lives, it's like not a day passed. It's still all about Beyblade or fanfiction. One fanfiction friend I had, we fell out of touch for years. I read her fics a lot and commented and years and several fandom switches later, I realized she was now fangirling over my works. We've kept in touch ever since and she's a really dear friend. despite some differences along the way, but we both are really grateful.
Now that I have friends, it's hard to either let them go or see them drift away. There are many friends I miss and friends I don't mind seeing ever again. People aren't like before either. Not many visits their friends and just hang around, it's either a bar or a movie or a cafe, even though those things (except the bar) are so unnatural for Finns. In the long evenings when I ignored my homework on purpose, I chatted with a lot of friends and only when I turned off the computer in the evening after a ton of arguments with grandparents (I should've been bed at 10pm and it was 10:15pm), I felt it hit me again. Loneliness.
I'm not lonely, per se, now, since I have my wife and two cats here, but we'd like to have friends who come by, to talk with us. My wife has lost a lot of friends over the years and she's probably feeling even lonelier than I ever was. Childhood on a dairy farm wasn't filled with a lot of hugs and playtimes with parents. Mostly with hay and moos and dung. I've been a dairy farm girl once. She's been a dairy farm girl once too. She even longer. Loneliness was always present from early morning to early evening.
Then you get friends. You feel like you have the world, when someone calls you or visits you or asks you to visit or wants to share something with you.
Then you grow up, maybe move. They grow up, move, maybe have family as well.
All of a sudden, you have nobody. You're not the bar fly you never liked to be. Your messages go unanswered or you get short replies for a minute, then a year of silence.
That makes you think, what the fuck went wrong, what did you do wrong? But... there is a saying: Aikaansa kutakin. There's an era. Maybe we are not ready to close that era. I just don't want the friendship era to end. If there's anybody reading this... If you have a friend you don't want the friendship to end with... tell them. Contact them. If they don't do it, then be the bigger person and do it. Maybe they need it. A familiar and friendly presence. If they don't want it, then you know, it's truly an end of an era. Friendships and relationships require two people to work. You need two oars to row a boat.
Sure, when you grow up devoid of friends, you learn to be self-sufficient, you play alone, you do things alone, but that makes operating friendships and other human relations harder. It can drive you to isolation. It drove me to it once.