A Friendly Conversation
One of my mother’s best friends passed away recently. A friend who, before her move out west was a regular in our home, and as much a part of my life as any family friend could become, her history a part of our history. Her parents had been dear friends of my grandparents, the two families within walking distance
My mother was fortunate to have several friendships like this one, or I suppose I should say—fortunate that this friendship was part of a larger friendship; several young girls who were introduced as children and cultivated relationships that would endure the rest of their lives.
Years ago, one of them found an old black and white photo of them all together, lined up for a photographer, perhaps at a spring birthday party, all in dresses, pretty white shoes and curls, holding hands and smiling. My mother has it framed and keeps it beside another picture of the same girls, some 50 years later, smiling the kind of smile you’d smile if you were with people you’d known and loved for that long. They have seen each other through marriage, children, loss of children, children never born. Some divorced. Several became widows. The emotions of a thousand independent milestones, shared among them all.
I wish for this kind of southern friendship, this ya-ya sisterhood, and I work to build it with the special people that I know. But as any woman in her 30's would surely agree, friendships are complicated. They all begin by happenstance: a few doors down on Vista Circle. Second encounters planned tenderly and purposefully, our willingness like a blessing whispered upon them, borne of great expectations for all the things we hope to be for one another.
Most don’t last like we hope they will. They remain important, historical: funny memories, valuable anecdotes. Maybe we don’t live near each other anymore, maybe she didn't speak the right words when she needed to, or maybe you didn't do the right thing when you should have. Maybe our points were too staggered on life’s timeline: You: married, kids, suburbia. Me: single in the city. These kinds of friendships leave quietly and unnoticed, like something you don’t even realize you've dropped.
But some of these friendships have an elastic quality, they are patient and resilient. They stretch across great distances and hold their breath underwater for a staggering amount of time, only to pop back up, buoyant and unchanged. These are great friendships. They are monumental, they have a complex past: stories of inconvenience and trust. They are hilarious and quirky, generous and forgiving. And they know everything about you.
Fortified and abandoned by the presence or absence of dialogue, even the greatest friendships are vulnerable in silence. So the next time we are seated together at the table while the children play peacefully in another room I will ask you about your day, about your family, your life in the city, about how you felt and what you did, where you came from and where you want to go…
And when we are 50 I hope someone takes a picture of us, telling our secrets, keeping the conversation.