By Sophia Schott, Medill, Immigrant Connect

I wake up to my mom brushing her hand through my hair. Marina my best friend, is lying next to me. I roll out of bed to the sweet smell of crépes that helps me forget today is the day we’ve been dreading since the start of 5th grade.

I have a pit in my stomach, reminding me my best friend is about to live thousands of miles away. All because of a little green card?

Not usually a day of dread, it’s the last day of school until the summer officially begins.

Everyone is giddy and excited. Marina and I are crying on our way to school.

It isn’t fair and I don’t want to let her go. Everyone else gets to keep their best friend during the summer and I just don’t get why I can’t do the same. My mom stops the car and looks back at the two of us staring out the window with looks of despair on our small round faces. Everyone else looks too happy.

School starts at 8 a.m. Before we know it, it’s 3:30 p.m. The dull school day had flown by and the dismissal bells are ringing.

Natasha, Marina’s mom who’s from Russia, stands eloquently, her fine white hair flowing. Brian, Marina’s dad is from Ireland. He’s shorter. They’re both standing at the edge of the parking lot as the clock hits 3:30 pm. All the kids run out of school with joy.

Not Marina and me. I’m squeezing her hand as tight as I can, hoping that maybe this summer she won’t have to leave me for so long. Each year I get my hopes up and each year, including today, I’m left walking away disappointed that yet again she has to go away for the summer.  I don’t understand it. She lives just a couple minutes away from me. I don’t have to go anywhere, so why does she?

I don’t really understand that she isn’t a citizen of the United States. I go to her house almost every day after school. I know she lives here. I ask my mom and she reminds me for the millionth time, Marina is a citizen of Russia and Ireland. That’s where her family is from. And they’re fortunate enough to travel there and spend an extended amount of time with the ones they love. You can visit when you get older, she tells me, as I roll my eyes. There’s no gratification in her answer.

I look over at Marina and her parents. Tears are flowing down our flustered pink cheeks. I run to her and hold on as tight as I can until our parents ply us off one another. My mom says goodbye as she holds us close to her chest. “I will see you in two months,” I say, as we turn our backs to one another and begin to add distance to our friendship.

Today, we’re both 20 years old. I still consider her one of my dearest friends. I sometimes envy the naive mind I once had. My only responsibility was to show up to a playdate with my best friends. My responsibilities today are different.

Looking back, I took for granted our friendship and how much we saw each other. I never thought that having to spend the summer apart would turn into only spending summers together, if we even get that.

I realize that friends want the best for each other. Though my 10-year-old self could not get past the immediacy of temporarily losing my “partner in crime,” I’ve grown to realize friends are supposed to be the ultimate support systems, encouraging one another to take every opportunity that comes their way. So that’s what I do. I support Marina in her opportunities even if they keep us apart.