The older I get, the more I recognize not only the value of keeping in touch with “old” friends, but the absolute necessity of it. I’ve been doing slightly better in this area the past few years, but there is always room for improvement. I recently enjoyed a movie and dinner with a lifelong friend from high school, and I left that meal feeling better about me and my place in the world.
Jan is one of my favorite people on the planet. In high school, we took classes together, partied together, traveled together and even lived together (rather peacefully, in fact) in an apartment until I lost my job and had to relocate to South Carolina for work. She visited me in South Carolina, was in my wedding and came to the hospital to see my babies. When my husband worked nights and weekends while my first-born was young, she kept me company and provided much-needed “adult” conversation.
My husband’s schedule changed keeping home at night and on the weekends. I had another baby. Then dance lessons, soccer practice, life as a wife and mom took over. Meanwhile, Jan advanced in her career and started traveling the globe on incentive trips. She even invited me to go on one with her — all expenses paid for a week in Scotland. I really wanted to go, but my “babies” were 6 and 3, and I couldn’t bear to leave them for that long.
We made the effort to get together several times a year. Eventually, even this dwindled to once a year. We’d lament this fact every time we got together because we always had so much fun together. We’d laugh about old memories and declare that no matter how much time passes, we were still basically the same people. We were both raised by cops, thus we’re both terrible cynics. (Really, NOTHING good happens after midnight!) We agree on things like crime and punishment. We both love strappy sandals, but think you MUST have painted toenails to wear them. You know — we agreed on all the important stuff.
I used to get upset that we didn’t see each other more often, and Jan would console me by saying that her mom told her this would happen. She said that friends “drift” some during the childbearing/childrearing years, particularly if they don’t both go through those years at the same time. Her mom said that you get so busy during those years that the only friends you have time for are the ones who have kids the same ages as yours and/or kids who are involved in the same activities. But, her mom concluded (all of this from experience) that once you get those kids raised, you gravitate back to those “old” friendships because “they knew you when” — and there is simply no replacement for that intimate knowledge.
When Jan and I do get together, we laugh at some of the antics of our youth. We both hope that my own children don’t try half the stuff we tried. We laugh even harder (and occasionally cry) at the minor (and sometimes not so minor) dysfunctions in our families of origin. She shares her exciting stories of global travel with me and now we get to discuss OUR trip together because last year, she asked me to join her again, and this time I SAID YES. She took me to ITALY! I share stories of being a mom to an adult (21), a teen and grade-schooler all at once. And we talk about our goals now that our fiftieth birthdays are just months away.
I’m very thankful that we make the effort to stay in touch, even if our encounters aren’t as regular as I’d like. I know I’ll be glad when I’m old and she and I are attending Red Hat Ladies luncheons, or we’re sunning our wrinkled old bodies on a beach somewhere.
Last year, she and I took a trip down memory lane after a morning of exercise together. She followed me in her car out of the park to find a coffee shop. And this popped up in the rearview mirror because of Jan’s expired plates, of which she was unaware.
It has been AGES — like 30-plus years — since these two daughters of police officers were pulled over together. Being that our dads, and Jan’s uncle, all wore the badge, we could not go ANYWHERE without some police officer keeping an eye on us. One officer in particular pulled us over regularly just to harass us. He was a jerk in the truest sense of the word, but boy did he give us some memories. I wish I had thought to ask the officer who pulled Jan over to pose with us for a photo with his lights a-blazing.
I share my deepest secrets, biggest insecurities and greatest dreams with this woman. She is among one of three women about whom I can say this — and I’ve got serious longevity with the other two, as well. So if you’re among the lucky ones and you are still in contact with women who “knew you when,” I encourage you to nurture those relationships.
EDITORS NOTE: In the coming weeks, we’re going to run a series of pieces on friendship from a group of women who are all celebrating their 50th birthdays together and who have been friends for 30-plus years. You don’t want to miss this, so be sure to enter your email address in the box to the right and subscribe to our free newsletter. And if you have stories of friendship or lessons learned about friendship as a woman in your fifties, please submit them here.