There is something very special about spending time with a friend you have known since you were young.
This isn't to say that I'm not just as close to many people that I've known for less time; it doesn't take a lifetime to recognize a kindred spirit! I'm a firm believer that there's always a good friend around every corner, just waiting to be met - and life has definitely blessed me with the best of friends.
Yet, I have to say that there is some kind of deep comfort or familiarity (in the way that familiar is akin to family) in spending an hour or three with a friend who knew you back when you were say, a fourth grader picking at scabs on your knee on the playground; an earnest, tremulous pre-teen; a hormonal, boy crazy adolescent. Something really calming and lovely about looking into the face of a friend you have known for half your life or much longer.
I am blessed to have a handful of dear friends who I have known since the age of eight or so. This means that we've known each other going on 30 years. Holy guacamole - can that be right? The answer is yes.
When you've known a person for 20 or 30 years - which amazingly, I'm now old enough to have done - you share something just as deep as common interests. You share history.
This weekend I have been thrice blessed to spend time with friends that I have respectively known since the fifth, tenth and eleventh grades. They all mean a lot to me in totally different ways, and we connect with each other uniquely. Two, like me, are devoted mothers (who I admire so much for their natural gifts with parenting AND their successful careers) and the third is a hard-working professional frequently jet-setting around the world. They each inspire me. They also intimidate me a little - I'm constantly wondering how they do so much and make it look so easy. I'm proud and amazed and envious all at the same time.
Of the four of us, I think only one has ended up in the career path dreamt of and planned on as a child ~ not me. The rest of us have perhaps surprised ourselves by what we ended up studying in college, which jobs we chose to pursue, and the profoundly transformative effect of marriage and motherhood upon us.
Watching their lives unfold over decades has been like receiving a gift plant that continues to bloom. I've always been one to turn to the back of the book to see how it all ends before I read the rest... and I've got to say that it has been really fun to see who they ended up marrying, meet their beautiful kids, get a brief glimpse now and then into their adult lives. Retrospect makes memories of youth even more fun and precious.
I can honestly say that twenty-five years ago I never really pictured where my friends would be as adults; and yet it has turned out to be a real joy and honor to watch their respective lives unfold. And perhaps they have been equally surprised by MY choices - me, the girl voted "Most Likely To Make a Million" almost 20 years ago by my high school class. I think the only thing I've made a million of in my life (beside mistakes, LOL!) would be words of sincere encouragement and belief for my students, friends and children throughout the years - and that makes me very rich indeed.
My husband - who I have known for just under ten years - has had a very similar experience with his friendships. He maintains a close network of friends dating back to junior high and even babyhood! many of whom are still part of his daily life today. At our wedding reception one of his best friends in the world (this one a friend from college) said something that moved me deeply, about my husband being the kind of guy who binds people to him with hoops of steel.
It is true, he really does inspire that kind of loyalty and friendship. I'm a clear (and lucky!) example of one whom he has bound to him with hoops of metal... white gold, in my case. I wear that white gold hoop which binds us together for life on the ring finger of my left hand every day, with love and gratitude.
I really love my husband's lifelong close friends - and their spouses! I can't actually think of a single friend that he is close to who I think is anything less than totally amazing, and many of their wives have become some of my closest confidantes and most beloved friends. In fact, one of the first things that made me understood what a good guy he is was seeing how his friends valued him and responded to him. You can tell a lot about a person by the quality of the people they associate with. It was easy from day one to see that my husband was a man of taste and enormous value.
I may meet a best friend tomorrow, someone that I adore for the rest of my life. Here are some of the things that he/she will never be able to share with me though:
- Sneaking into hotel jacuzzis to swim and party. Doing *anything* remotely scandalous! I'm a mother of 3 kids now, it isn't likely that I'll be scaling cliffs in the moonlight or toilet papering houses anytime soon. I can't even go into chlorine right now with my health issues, so night swimming is definitely no longer an option!
- Mourning a teenaged friend together. Weeping together on the beach below my childhood home over the untimely passing of our close mutual friend, digging letters in the sand so deep and wide they could be seen from 'Heaven'.
- Sharing a first kiss. Thanks to the entrance into my life of my much-beloved husband, it is my ardent hope that 'first kisses' will be forever a thing of the past for me.
- Knowing each other's parents when they were young(er). This one is big. With one of my parents already dead, it means so much to me to spend time with people who actually knew my dad and spent time around him when he was still smart and savvy (and alive).
- Knowing me before I grew anxious. Which may ultimately equate to having known me before I contracted lyme disease. My MD feels strongly that I contracted the lyme and co-infections during my freshman year of college... which would make sense because my chronic anxiety did not begin until that year. Before that time I was extremely optimistic, idealistic, open to taking big risks and not prone to worrying about safety at all. Apparently anxiety and depression are common characteristics of the disease.
- Learning how to do new things together. Driving. Cooking. Partying. Trying new sports. Prank-pulling. Dating. Learning about the world around us, discovering its complexities for the very first time.
- Witnessing each other's youthful optimism, ambition and dreams. It isn't that life has humbled me (although it has...) ~ it's more that I have new dreams now of a more modest, solid, fulfilling life which have displaced the old world-shaking plans.
At seventeen years old I was determined to conquer the world, and my childhood friends know this, because they were there.
The meaning of this 365 blog is to teach my small children what is most important in the world (from my view) and also to share with them my unique perspective on what life is all about. So little Bug-Bean-Bee, the meaning of today's article is very straightforward:
Be a good, loyal friend to others. Cherish your friends. Make an effort to maintain your close friendships over the long haul. Do not sacrifice friends over the alter of your career, or give them up for a jealous/possessive mate. Do not relinquish a friendship over a love affair. In the end you will discover that your friendships, family and true love are really the most important things you will ever be lucky enough to experience in this world.