There was a time in my teens and 20’s when I was very lonely and days seemed to stretch forever. I always had my precious cat Charlotte and a shelf of favorite books to keep me company but, otherwise, I was often isolated. Something in me was determined never to feel this way again and I set out to find friends and community. In those pre-internet days, friendships were a bit harder to come by. I was a young mother in search of community and I found it in the local Episcopal church and a play group. I am still close to those friends I made all those years ago. As I was thinking of my life now and what I wanted to say in this month’s blog, friendship and my many dear friends came to mind. It is spring and as my world turns green, I plant the flowers and trees I want to grown in my garden. I’ve also planted a living garden of friends in my life. Shall we have a stroll around the beautiful colors and variety that grow in my friendship garden.
The most long-lasting variety of friends are also family. Husband, daughters, sister, aunts and cousins are the biggest blessing in my life right now. I love to nurture these ties that bind us through generations and DNA. Time together is the best and family reunions big and small are highlights of the year, I also love those little sibling/cousin/aunt text chains that link me quickly and easily to my family. There will be multiple dings on my phone as stories, pictures, hearts and emoji’s come through in a flurry of activity. There will be silence again and then a few weeks later the fun and connections will begin again. This summer my family is gathering in northern Minnesota to bury my mother’s ashes, celebrate my cousin’s marriage, see our Swedish cousins and play with the newest member, two-year-old Nora. Those friendships are bound by heritage but nurtured over the decades in a place that holds the echoes of our ancestors.
Childhood friends remember you as you were before—when I had glasses and braces and ugly 1970’s clothes. Childhood friends remember your family and school and all the formative events of life. I still have a childhood friend I keep in touch with regularly. Mel and I met in 4th grade and have been BFF’s ever since. Sometimes we would go long periods of time without seeing each other but when we get together it is like no time has passed and we are girls again. We tell the old stories and play our favorite piano duet that is so deep in our memories that we will never forget it. Our lives and interests may be different now but our past carries us forward together into the future in a special sisterhood. A few years ago, I went to visit Mel in Taiwan where she teaches English and works on her PhD in communications. I couldn’t be prouder of her adventurous life.
My motherhood friends and I are entwined with the lives of our children. Playgroups and school groups brought us together through circumstance and shared place and time. We share the joys and frustrations of our growing children and the happy events along the way which for me were music and dance recitals, beach trips and play dates. I still have one very close friend from that era, Judy. We have so many more things in common which has bonded our friendship past the child rearing days. Now we talk about our grown children and her grandchildren with the easy of a long history already lived together.
Hamilton and I are both introverts and making friends outside of the family doesn’t come naturally but fortunately we have some wonderful community friends that get us out and around town. Over the years we have grown a special group of friends that, like us, doesn’t have many local relatives or extended family. These precious friends have become chosen family for birthdays and holidays. I can count on them to bring something delicious to a potluck meal and be ready for a party of any kind. We sit around the campfire by the river in the summer, have lavish Thanksgiving feasts, trade gifts and cards for birthdays and Christmas and are there when life passages with elderly parents gets overwhelming. I adore my chosen community family.
It is never too late to make friends. As you grow older, it can be harder to make friends as so many people are already busy with established relationships and family. But I have been fortunate to make a new group of friends in my small town. Proximity to friends makes life easier and since I live out in the country having friends close by has been such a gift. My walks in a nearby neighborhood grew into meeting people who have just moved to the area and are open to making friends. So, thankfully, I was invited to a local book club and a hiking group formed and now I have friends that are as thrilled with books, birds and flowers as I am and are willing to hike up a mountain every Wednesday. We are already planning more adventures further afield. I also know that I can call on them anytime and someone is close by to lend a hand.
My final category of friends is my spiritual soul mates. These are the dear friends I share my deepest heart with. We speak a special language developed through books and experiences. I miss my dear spiritual mentors Page and Rachael; no one can ever replace them. But now I have my graduate-school classmates who speak my deepest inner language and my friend Val who loves a good spiritual pilgrimage/adventure to parts unknown.
There are also the people that I do business with that have become friends, acquaintances, friends in the local church and people come into my life for a time and a specific reason. All of them are a blessing to my little corner of the world and I hope in turn I am a blessing to them. Friends are a richness to life that smooths the hard edges and brings comfort and joy to each day. I’m so glad that I have been able to cultivate so many friendships over the years and leave that loneliness behind.