Yesterday a dear friend posted pictures that included me from a party we attended 30 years ago. While it was a blast seeing all those faces, it really made me stop to appreciate the fact that she and I have been friends for that long. A thirty year friendship is a rare and precious thing.
I don't have a lot of long-term friends. At the risk of sounding whiny, I partly blame my upbringing. We were rather nomadic, moving enough times that when I started 9th grade it was my 10th school. I learned a lot of good coping skills through that experience, but what I didn't learn was the value of holding onto friends. Apparently it wasn't something my parents put much stock in, either, because I didn't grow up seeing them keep in touch with any old friends.
At any rate, I drifted through childhood and into young adulthood with a kind of “love the ones you're with” approach to friendship. I almost always had friends wherever I was, but if life moved me on down the road, I didn't stay in touch with the old friends. Prior to the advent of Facebook with its power to reunite old classmates and the like, I had stayed loosely in touch with only two high school friends. I had not managed to maintain ANY of my college friendships. I still have no contact with anyone from graduate school.
My wonderful friend who posted the picture (and her husband, an equally close friend) came into my life around the grad school era, but as classmates of my first husband. We all shared a house during their last year of school. Ironically while my marriage didn't last, the friendship did. She later served as a bridesmaid in my wedding with Bob and while we don't get to see each other face to face very often, when we do it is always like picking up where the previous visit left off.
Apparently, I didn't begin to put down roots in friendships in any big way until I entered the working world. I do have at least a few friends who date back to my first post-grad school job. And each phase of my life after that seems to have generated some lasting friendships. Admittedly, each later phase is closer in time, so there hasn't been as long to lose touch with people. But my experience has been that I lost touch almost right away, because I used to not understand that friendship was worth holding on to.
It has been a big delight to reconnect with a lot of high school classmates and a few college ones through Facebook. The thing I have really enjoyed is seeing how the things that seemed so divisive in high school just don't matter now. A lot of the people I now interact with frequently were only casual acquaintances then. They moved in different circles and in high school, those social roles mattered. Now, we've all lived through enough that we are who we are. If who we've become clicks, we pick up the friendship. In some cases it is a renewing of something that was always there, in others it is like finding unexpected treasure.