Chatting with her is always therapeutic for me. We are friends for the simple fact that we enjoy each other's company and have a LOT in common. As much as I adore my family, it is so refreshing to hang out with someone once in a while who has no stake in anything related to me. Her life is so separate from mine, yet so similar. We are both raising boys, similar in ages. We have lived in the same states. We like the same kinds of things. It's so important to have people like that. She can tell me things that she can't tell other people close to her, and I can do the same. Like I said--therapy.
It got me thinking about friendship and how precious and important it is, and how rare. Over the years, my friendships have really evolved. I don't mean my specific relationships with certain people, but the way I relate to friends and the roles they play in my life, not to mention the priority that I place on the relationships. When I was in grade school, it was tricky because of how often I moved. I remember having close girlfriends, but they changed year to year, since we bounced around. But back then it's all I knew, so it didn't seem that strange.
Once I was in high school, my friendships were deeper, more important. I had few girlfriends, but good ones. Girls are more difficult to hang out with than boys--we are so competitive with one another, it's part of our biology. But I had three solid girlfriends in my first high school--one whom I have lost touch with over the years, one who I reconnected with over e-mail several years ago and now am friends with on Facebook, and one who was a foreign exchange student who I also keep in touch with on Facebook. Technology is a wonderful thing. These women were my friends during such a critical time in a person's life, that even though we were close for a very short time, they left an absolutely permanent mark on me.
At my second high school, I made several friends who meant a great deal to me. My senior year was so wonderful. At school at least. The kids at my new school were so welcoming to me, and I was lucky enough to earn several real and true friends there, male and female. It was a horrible year for my family, and I don't know what would have happened to me had I not had them in my life. But as life goes on, it takes a cruel toll and we grow apart from each other, grow into our careers, our new families, our adulthood. And we look back on those years the same way we look back on John Hughes movies.
College friends are a different breed. Through my years in college, I had roommates, drinking buddies. I loved them, I really did. They were fun, silly, necessary. I had one close girlfriend that was like a sister to me, but most of my best friends were guys. And I love them all to this day. They all know who they are, and I think they know what they meant to me. They saved me so many times, from so many different things, they were like the big brothers I needed while my real big brother was far away from me.
Once college was over, and I began life as a wife, my world got so much smaller. In a good way, but still, smaller. I think it happened to almost all of my friends. You become an adult. All of a sudden figuring out your real life is your priority. Not figuring out your weekend. Marriage, bills, and starting a family becomes the focus. Our new families begin to replace our friends, and we grow apart. It's a bittersweet thing. Our lives have new meaning and focus, and we leave behind what seemed so necessary and critical to us only a few short years ago. But it's natural. When I see some of my old friends now, I feel heartsick about how little I know of them now. Sometimes I get nervous when I know I'm going to see some of my old crew, at homecomings or reunions or weddings. There was so much intimacy, so many skeletons that we all knew about each other. In some cases, it's probably best that time and distance has separated people.
But now my kids are growing up. My life is in a comfortable routine. I am meeting new friends, through parenting, through the community, through my family even. And once in a while I meet someone like my little Chihuahua. Someone who's like a breath of fresh air to me. My husband is the best friend I could ever ask for. I love my family. I love my SIL's. They are more than my friends, they are my lifeblood. But we all need some friends. Some people who are just our buddies. They are like the cinnamon sugar on your toast--you don't have it all the time, but when you need it, well, it's there in the cupboard.