“The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.” Elisabeth Foley
At the beginning of this week, I have to say, I was pretty nervous about what would happen as I reached out to the friends I haven’t talked to or seen in a long time. I’m not exactly sure why I was nervous, except that maybe there was a little part of me that was scared no one would respond. Or that they would think my project was silly. Or even worse, that they didn’t think of me the same way I thought of them. But one thing I am learning from this whole consciousness-raising experience is that sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and jump, and hope that the landing won’t hurt too much.
In my life I have been very lucky to have true friends from just about every stage I’ve been through. There are my childhood friends – the ones I grew up with who have known me the longest. We share so many memories that they probably know me as well as I know myself. Then there are my friends from boarding school…and even though I have probably spent the least amount of time with any of them since we graduated, the time we did share was so intense and concentrated that I could pick up right where we left off in an instant, and not miss a beat. College was a little different for me – I didn’t come out of there with a big group of friends, but I did come out with a few, and most importantly, my husband, my truest friend by far. There are my ‘super’ friends, the wives of my husband’s best friends, who I have shared a zillion different things with from marriage, to children, to vacations, to, well, you name it. There are my friends from our first neighborhood where our children were born…they are the ones who kept me sane while I learned the ins and outs of motherhood. And now, of course, there are my friends where we live now – as true as friends can be. But, luckily, I don’t need to reconnect with them just yet.
So my challenge for this week was to decide how I was going to actually do the reconnecting with all these people who I wanted to reach out to. I thought about calling them all, but since there were pretty many, it didn’t seem too practical. I finally decided to use a combination of email and Facebook, and on Sunday afternoon I wrote them all a note, closed my eyes and pressed ‘send’. As I’ve already said, it was pretty scary, and I actually didn’t sleep very well that night fretting about whether I would hear anything back. Monday morning came around and when I nervously checked my email and Facebook there was nothing from anyone. Oh dear. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the day trying to convince myself not to take it too personally…people are busy, right? They could be on vacation, or sick, or…it was definitely a long day trying to keep the Doubting Debby in my mind at bay. But then, thankfully, late Monday afternoon I got a response. And then another, and another, and before the day was over I had reconnected with enough of these old friends that I was on top of the world. It was SO much fun! Some shared old memories, some gave an update on what they’d been doing, and some just said hi. And sure, there are still a few I haven’t heard back from, but because I want to be a true friend myself, I will just trust that there is a reason, and that someday a note from them will appear. And I will be so happy when it does.
I have really been giving a lot of thought this week to how friends are made. For instance, when you’re 5 years old and you walk into kindergarten for the first time, what is it that makes you want to play with one person over another? I don’t remember it ever being a conscious decision…and actually, in my particular case, one of my oldest friends picked me. And then decided she wanted to ‘keep me’, so she made me get on her bus, which I did. I’m not sure if I was just too scared to say anything (she was kind of bossy!), or if I actually realized it was my bus too, so it wasn’t worth arguing. In any case, when my big sister got on, everything was sorted out. But the thing is, from that very moment we met, we’ve been friends, and it just seems to me that there must be something that we saw in each other right from the start. Who knows, maybe it was our souls recognizing each other from some past life. I like that idea a lot, actually, and I think I even witnessed it when my youngest son met one of his ‘true’ friends for the first time. We were in the nursery school playground waiting to meet with the teacher, and I took him over to the slide. There was another mom standing at the bottom, and her son was getting ready to slide down. The two boys looked at each other and smiled…I swear, they might as well have said “Oh hi, I’ve been waiting for you…where’ve you been?” It was instant friendship from that moment on.
And honestly, I feel that way about all of my friends. I may not be able to tell you exactly when we met, or even where, but I can tell you that with every single one of them, I feel like I’m home when I’m with them. No matter the time or distance between us, no matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done, whether we’ve changed or are the same as we’ve always been, that spark is always there. And whether that spark is a past connection between our souls, or just the recognition of a kindred spirit in the here and now, I know, better than I know anything else, that it’s a spark that will never go out.