I've been pondering the delights of old friends this morning. This was motivated by my having had the opportunity to spend time with two different sets in the past couple weeks.
For our family vacation this year, we went to Lake Cumberland, Kentucky, and rented a houseboat. Joining us on the boat was a friend of my son's and John and Sammy, a couple who are friends of Bob's and mine. Bob and John have been friends for 30 years, having met while in college. Bob and I were married in 1987 and we happened to be in Atlanta visiting John the day he met Sammy, his eventual wife. I'm not sure, but I think that was in 1990. So we've known them both more than 15 years.
Before we had Sam, we used to get together with John and Sammy often. When we lost a baby before Sam, they insisted we come stay with them for some pampering. That's the kind of friendship it was. But Atlanta-to-Columbus jaunts get a lot more trying with a little one in tow, so now we mainly e-mail and check in via phone. This was the first time we have spent more than a mealtime together in close to ten years.
Then this past weekend, I got to see my oldest girlfriend, Kathee. (OK, let's rephrase that. She's certainly not any older than I am, but our friendship has existed longer than any other.) I believe Kathee and I were in 6th grade when we began sitting together on the bus, and after we landed two of the lead roles in the 8th grade production of The Wizard of Oz, the friendship moved into "best friend" status. After high school we went to different cities for college and from their our lives took very different paths. She spent ten or more years in Chicago, then relocated to Boston where she still lives. Just like with John and Sammy, our friendship is now sustained by e-mail for the most part. But Kathee's mother is still in Columbus, and her mother's knee replacement turned out to be our opportunity to spend an afternoon together.
In both cases, I marvel at how quickly the distance and the differences fall away and how easy it is to be together. Having lived through so much together -- even when it is only living by e-mail -- builds such a foundation of trust and acceptance that it's easy to just let go and be myself. I consider that such a precious gift! There aren't really that many places in life -- at least in my life -- where I feel completely at ease to let my guard down and just be. To be with old friends who have seen me fail and flounder and can still love and accept me is a great comfort.
I'd love to explore this further, but duty calls. I have to go jump into the daily grind. But I hope the time comes when some of my current workmates or acquaintances have earned the honored title of "old friend." And I hope I can earn it from them!