Sunday, August 16, 2009

On the nature of friendship

It's a pretty extraordinary thing when you can see a old friend for the first time in 15 years and pick right up where you left off with no awkwardness, no embarrassment on either side for not necessarily having kept in as close touch as you might have wished, and no concerns about whether or not you're still friends. Instead there's simply an explosive joy at seeing someone who, in the space or probably less than 7 total days spread out across 22 years, became a dear friend for life.

Such was the case today when B and her husband pulled into our driveway, a brief pitstop on their way home from a wedding. B and I met during a New England Shakespeare Festival in 1987, my senior year of high school, and hit it right off. That accounted for maybe 48 hours. A few months later, before heading to college, I drove north to visit her. Chalk off 48 more hours. Then we went our separate ways, keeping in sporadic touch via letter and, even more rarely, phone. Then I moved back to RI and in 1994, after she moved to New York following an extended sojourn in Europe, she came to visit me in Jamestown, just to catch up. I don't remember -- maybe it was 24, maybe 48 hours. Let's go with 48 just to round up.

And then we didn't see each other for 15 years.

There was really no good reason for this. She was in New England, I was in New England, and while we both had our own lives, the letters kept being sent, perhaps one or two a year at most, sometimes a Christmas card. We kept up with the family news, about how I got engaged and married, about how she got engaged and married and then became a mom. Jenn and I were on a trip a year ago and were within 45 minutes of B's home and I didn't think to call and say, "hey, I want to meet your husband and your son and say hello for the first time in ages." B was in Newport for a conference a year or so ago but didn't have a chance to give me a shout.

And then B and her husband J showed up today to visit Jennifer and me and it was like no time passed. The four of us spent three hours trading stories, roaring with laughter, getting caught up, and just enjoying each others' company. We heard about their three-year old son, we brought them up to speed on our adoption journey, and it was so fluid and natural and pleasurable, B and I reenergizing our friendship, Jenn and J instantly becoming a part of it. When they left with waves and promises to stay in touch, Jenn turned to me and said, "I am so sad they don't live closer because we'd be seeing them a lot if they did."

You often think of friendships as things that must be built over time if they're to last. Not in this case. It was instant for B and me at that Shakespeare Festival and over the months and years and miles, that friendship never waned. While the thread of communication became pretty tenuous at times, it was never severed and for that, I am thankful.

Now, Jenn and I are already plotting how and when to invite ourselves to their place for a weekend sometime soon. After all, I squandered 15 years of a perfectly good friendship and Jenn just made two good new friends so there's no time to waste!

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