Visiting with the “Lunch Bunch” the other day the subject of friendship came up. We were discussing how easily we had connected because we’re all of an age, have similar interests now, and while our backgrounds are varied, we came from that time in history when the playing field was pretty level and everyone was working toward the same goal. The differences we experienced in adulthood only make our present connections more interesting as we compare raising kids, or jobs or siblings.
Youngest granddaughter is at that time in her life — middle school/junior high — when friendships are in flux. People you’ve known all your life begin to move in and out of the corners of your realm. Families move away, interests change, personalities develop in different directions and all at once the world you thought you knew is filled with people you’ve never spoken to and classmates you didn’t think even knew you were there. It’s hard to make her believe it is the same for everyone and her life doesn’t end because her BFF’s family just moved to Palmer, or Arizona, or maybe even Timbuktu.
I’ve mentioned that my grandmother lived to be 105. She had the same friends all her life. Of course, she made new ones, but the little girls she knew in first grade were the old ladies she went to club with in her golden years. Needless to say, Grandma didn’t move very far from the small town where she was born in Northern Idaho and neither did many of the people she grew up with. I fully remember her saying, “She was like that when she was 10,” when I made a comment about one of her contemporary’s sharp tongue one time.
When Grandma was growing up, her social life was mainly church, quilting bees, neighborhood clubs and square dances. She seldom traveled more than 10 miles from home when she was a child, and it was an all-day trip when she did. There were no movies on the weekend, no ballgames in the next town, not even any phone calls to discuss the latest scandal. In Granddaughter’s mind very boorrinnggg, I’m sure.
A few columns ago I quoted a poem that makes its way around the internet a few times a year: “People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” Granddaughter still believes all friends are the Lifetime variety. She has never met someone who isn’t her friend and I remember how difficult it was to move on at that age. My family moved when I was in seventh grade and I had to change schools. Trauma! I was sure I’d never have another friend all my life. But it was easier than I expected, making new friends. Mostly because the “old kids” are just as curious as the new kid, and something always comes up to get them together — a book, a game, or maybe just a forlorn look. Ironically, the friends from the “new” school are the ones I count as the “for a lifetime” ones now.
Grandma selected her friends like most of us do: same age, similar interests, geographically close, and maybe her folks were friends with their folks. In later years, she added some criteria, but like all of us, not all of her friends were friends with each other. That is what Granddaughter is having a tough time with. She wants all her friends to be friends and it just doesn’t happen all the time. In elementary school everybody likes everybody but by middle school we begin to discriminate, and a thing as simple (and as shallow) as wearing your hair the wrong way, or always knowing the answers to the teacher’s questions or being friends with THAT person sets you apart. But “when one door closes another opens” (to quote another internetism) and the opportunity for new friends is always present.
Because we have lived a rather flexible lifestyle (read Nomadic) I understood the “for a season” phase of many of our friendships and rejoiced if some lasted beyond our stint at one place or another. We’re pretty settled now but I remember how easy it was to make friends in “old” Alaska for us “older folks” because everyone was transient. You walked in, sat down next to someone, said “Hello, my names is (insert your name here),” and for the next little while, a month, a year, maybe two, that was your new best friend.
An old friend from that time sauntered through my life again a couple of weeks ago. We do that once or twice a year. We seldom see each other unless by strange coincidence we are in the same place at the same time but we haven’t forgotten our friendship, and eventually one of us feels the need to connect again. That is the type of friendship I hope Granddaughter will learn.
I just hope that she can get through these giddy years and when she is 105 look back and say of someone she knows, “Oh well, she was like that when she was 14.”
Virginia Walters lives in Kenai.