Friends seem to come and go when we are young. Sometimes those young friends remain friends forever but that seems rare these days. More often than not, children get bored or have a spat and move on to new friends. At this age, we spend friends like pennies and like pennies, don’t think much about where they came from or where they go.
In middle school, I had loads of friends. There were neighborhood friends—the ones I played kickball with, went trick or treating with, and those with whom I would, someday get drunk on cheap wine with in the woods behind our house. High school expanded that circle with new acquaintances. These, along with one or two of the neighborhood friends, were who I went ice skating with on Friday nights or for pizza and a movie on Saturday nights. I had a horse back then, so I had horsey girlfriends as well. One of them was older than me and cool. She didn’t ignore me in school, but she didn’t hang out with me either. I didn’t mind. She was popular and actually a nice person, so I wasn’t offended. It was just the natural order, how things were.
Then somehow, as I approached graduation, young, tender emotions grew into older, tempestuous ones. Wounds didn’t heal as easily as they used to. Arguments between friends didn’t melt away with a hug and the exchange of a stick of gum or candy bar. Instead they stuck, festered, and without the knowledge and maturity to bridge the gap, to reach across hurt feelings and attitudes, I threw friendships away.
I often find myself aching now, a physical-type longing for those friendships, the sister-like bonds I had with friends long ago, when I was young.
Friends back then used to walk right into our home without knocking, help themselves to whatever was in the refrigerator, call my mother “Mom” or “Jane,” stay for dinner or a sleepover whenever, and much to their chagrin, even were dragged along to church if they stayed over Saturday night.
I think a lot about old friendships.
I miss them.
And I regret the ones I spent.
As I grew older, I found it harder to make new friends, harder to forge those bonds.
What changed, I wondered?
Me, my circumstances, my ability to be close to others?
I found myself awash in life, the waves of it lapping at my willingness to share myself.
Others too seemed to lack the time and commitment to invest in friendships with the same freedom we had in high school.
Now that my daughter is grown, I finally and unexpectedly find myself with some new friends.
And even though these bonds might be different—they aren’t the kind that help themselves to my ‘fridge or walk in without knocking, I still value them.
I count them like pennies, and like all earned and saved pennies, I’m grateful for them.