Monday, December 3, 2012

On Friendship

Recently, I was on a trip for work. I learned a bunch about financial aid, a little bit about Florida and a whole lot about...friendship. A work function seems like an unlikely inspiration for a post about friendship but that's how it happened. Only in my world, right?

During my trip to the conference, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with an old friend. Kat and I were more or less inseparable and part of a close bunch in Girl Scouts (I know) in elementary school but she moved to Florida in 6th grade. Naturally, with that much distance, it was hard to keep in touch, and so we fell off. Despite that, I always look back fondly at those years. Thanks to Facebook, we were able to reconnect and when I found out I'd be in Orlando for the conference, we made a plan to meet up for dinner. I'm not afraid to admit I was nervous; it had been over a decade since we spoke in person and she's a whole lot more hip than I am (cool purple hair, lots of tattoos, works at a hair salon). I feared she might find me 'square' (how square of me to think people use the term 'square' as a descriptor anymore). How do you converse as adults when the last time you spoke, you were kids freaking out over Hanson and Surge soda? What I learned was that I had no reason to be afraid. There was no awkwardness; the ease with which we conversed made it seemed like no time had passed. Kat told me she had been a bit nervous too; our lives had taken us in such different directions. We played catch-up over a delicious meal at a place with a really hip vibe and amazing sangria. It was something she said to me that has stuck, and has served as the inspiration for this post: she missed me. She said despite the length of time and distance between us, her most genuine memories included me, and her time in Maine. I know what she means. There's an authenticity in childhood friendships that is often very difficult to find in adult relationships. We parted ways after dinner and vowed to stay in touch. Despite our geographical distance, I'm certain we will.

The same thing happened with me and Amanda when she moved back earlier this year. We've very quickly rekindled our bond and have an ever growing list of things to do together as adults. She said some very moving things to me about me and our mothers and our parallel lives. She reminded me of the impact we can all have on each other as kids.

It's the authenticity that makes these friendships last, I think. There are no pretenses; as children in friendships we say exactly what we mean and how we feel. We fight, but then we make up. I can vividly remember arguing with a friend in 5th or 6th grade, vowing never to speak again and then 1 or 2 days later getting lost in a giggle and forgetting the whole thing. The friends that mean the most are the ones you sat next to while their parents fought in the next room; you didn't say anything but you stood firm and quiet in support of her. They are the ones you bring over to hang out despite the fact that you're embarrassed by your dad's messy house and you don't have a mother and you run to the store with food stamps. The friends you could see all day at school and then run home and call on the phone and talk for 3 hours (oh how tying up the land-line drove our parents crazy!); the friend who showed you how to wear make-up and stuff your bra and make you feel pretty. The ones that mean the most are the ones you share genuine, heartfelt, spontaneous moments with. When you hold a friend's newborn baby brother for the first time; when you console a friend in the bathroom because she just had a traumatic experience. Drinking Surge and staying up for 24 full hours, just to see if you could (we did). You've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly about each other (and your families) and it doesn't matter.

These are the things that make it possible to always pick up where you left off, despite weeks, months or years.  The foundational memories are like indelible ink; I swear I can remember what pajamas I was wearing at the "stay up for 24 hours" (non)sleep-over; Aimee, was it your mom that got mad at us for staying up, or mine? I remember Kat's little sister singing a song about putting on her yellow socks. Noodle tag. Nachos & Fabio. Making human pyramids at recess at Sherwood Heights. Backstreet Boys, NSYNC and Hanson worship. "You broke my sippy straw!" (Jenny, I can never watch that scene in Starship Troopers without hearing you say that in my head). White eyeliner (omg, Amanda, do you remember!?), Bonney Park, Total Request Live. Renee, I still laugh when I tell the story of your mom walking into the glass doors..twice, on your sunporch (sorry Diane!). Great Falls school (do people remember the 5th grade sleepover?).  I could go on forever...

As an adult, I've made some great new friends. There is a trust and comfort and love with them too, but they never resemble your first friends. That's not to say that friends you make as an adult are less important or less loved. It's just not the same as the raw, no holds barred, don't even have to try, no information is too much information, totally-ridiculous-most-of-the-time friendships you had as a child. And what's so great about those is that they last. Social media helps keep us talking (in some cases every day at work; thanks G-Chat); our memories keep us connected. Even years can go by between visits or calls and you can fall back into easy conversation and giggle fits. Sure, the subject matter changes (from boy bands and make-up and crushes, to spouses and work and in-laws and bills) but the foundation never changes. What connects you never changes. You might have to work at it a bit more, when grown-up life gets in the way and/or physical distance splits you apart, but first friends are forever.  This one's for you, ladies.

Thank you for being a friend / traveled down the road and back again / your heart is true / you're a pal and a confidant

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