Aug 312013

In fall 1975, my freshman roommate and I had one of our frequent late night bull sessions.  (My calling it a “bull session” is an homage to the times — no one in her right mind would call our late night chats that.)

I often couldn’t sleep – because my world was so new, or because “Toys in the Attic” by Aerosmith was blasting from the boy’s dorm next door at all hours.

My roommate didn’t believe people stayed friends for life. I disagreed with her, convinced that my childhood friends would always be there.

In a sense, we were both right.  We are always connected by times we’ve shared, places we’ve lived, people we’ve known.

Does anything truly stay the same? Of course not.   Had I stayed in my hometown as an adult, those times, the familiar faces, those people I’ve known , would never be as they were in my memory.

Sometimes the fog of memory is a good thing. Some memories are better left behind, while others can be taken out of the memory box —like a jewel in safe deposit — to savor the beauty and history.

Is it possible to have friends for life?

One of the greatest blessings of my life has been  my friends.  Making friends has always been easy for me, I think that is the case because I grew up in a small town.  My parents knew everyone and everyone knew them.  They also took my brother and me to everything from the ice cream social at the Fire House to the Tomahawk Days traveling circus and weekly visits at the library.

My parents were teachers, and we met other teacher’s children at picnics and holiday gatherings.  Sunday school started at age three; more captive friends.

In the early elementary grades, I walked several blocks to school often with neighborhood children. Relationships changed as I grew older—by junior high we had cliques. As a teacher’s child, I was already labeled as straight-laced and smart.

Ninth grade changed  the when several elementary schools merged to make the first freshman class in a new consolidated high school.  I wasn’t quite as smart as I thought I was.  The truly smart kids from elementary school left me behind; I also sought friends that shared my interests.

Graduation – on a hot May day I walked out of the high school gymnasium and off to a state university ninety miles away.

With the exception of family friends – and a gaggle of recently discovered Facebook friends – my childhood pals are a part of my past and rarely show up in my present.

While I’m not sure why, many of the significant relationships of my life – apart from family and friends from childhood I consider family – developed in college.

That roommate who sat across the fishnet-covered dorm room is still a close friend. I met my husband in college, and many of my friendships were nurtured by working on the college yearbook (look for it in Jurraisic Park—it’s a dinosaur.) I’ve been fortunate to make new friends through work and church over my life, especially when we first married and lived in Florida.

I don’t like to lose friends. Nature and time takes care of that. This is out of our control. The curse of having many friends — which I see so clearly in my father’s life — is watching them go before you.  I’ve lost my share, also, and each loss has been hard.

Losing friends when I’ve moved away or they’ve moved away or just routine life changes pulled us apart is also difficult.  That’s why I like some of the social networking, because I’ve reconnected with special people from earlier in my life.

I am usually the person who weaves the connections in our friendships.  I’m a long-time letter writer, from generations of women who wrote letters.  I have enough note-cards in my office closet to last me three decades, if I’m lucky enough to live that long.

Sometimes, however, it is time to cut your losses which brings us back to the question my roommate and I debated long ago.  Sometimes people outgrow each other.  People outgrow me.  I’ve gone in different directions from friends who I once considered in my inner circle.

That goes against my nature, but I’m learning to accept that it is just how things roll. During the past five years, I’ve had enormous personal changes in my life.  For reasons too complex to explain, I’ve watched several friends drift off.

Friendships can be for life.  I’m not  sure it is always the case.  People and circumstances change.  I am grateful for the friends I have — and had.  All of them have taught me something,  Even if we are no longer close, I retain a piece of them in my heart, for life.

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