Thursday, May 7, 2009

How friendships evolve...

I have been thinking a lot about friendships lately.  How different they are in different stages of our life.  I guess this retrospective has come about because Big S has learned some really tough, but important lessons about friendship this year.  The kind of lessons that everyone has to learn, and the sooner you learn them the better off you are, but the kind that a mom hates to watch her kids figure out on their own.  Anyway, our discussions have led me to reflect a lot on the friendships that I have now, those that I had in the past and those rare few that have transcended various stages in my life!

When you are very young, friendship is often about one of two things: those who are quite simply nearby and therefore easily accessible to you and those whom your parents put you with as playmates.  When you reach school, your friends are usually those who are in your class.  The older you get, the more picky you become - you start by weeding out the opposite sex and then to gravitate to those who you may have known the longest, or simply those whom you sit beside!  As I look back on my early friendships, I smile, but quite honestly the memories are very fond, but I am not in touch with any of them any more.  One thing that was unique to my early childhood was that we moved a lot in my first 10 years, so I was always jealous of people who could say that they had been friends since preschool - I never had this opportunity.  We finally settled down halfway through 4th grade and that's when I can actually start "tracking" people that I had some form of contact with over a greater time span.  

It wasn't until junior high that I started to make friends that had the potential to be lifelong friendships.  Kim and I became friends in 6th grade, but came to realize that we had known each other for at least a year prior through dance class!  Kim and I remain friends to this day - our level of contact waxes and wanes, but I will count her as a friend till I die - there is something about those formidable years of junior high and high school that bond you forever!  Treva and I became friends shortly after Kim and I did and in fact they may have been friends before I met either of them, but we quickly became a very tight threesome!  Over the next 6 years, we didn't have a lot of classes together, but we always found time for sleepovers, movies, girls' night out, double dates, hours long phone conversations.....  At some pointed we added a fourth to our group - Liat!  I was never quite as close to her as the other two, but especially in high school we all did a lot together!  I saw Treva and her husband only a couple months ago - they live about 3 hours away from us these days!  It was like we hadn't seen each other in 6 months even though it had been about 10 years!! 
In college, the type of friendships you form are quite different - after all you live with these people and the rules of your parents' house no longer apply.  Freshman year is spent figuring out your major and where you fit in both on campus and in the real world.  You begin to reassess the world through your own eyes instead of through your parents'.  Sometimes that's good, sometimes it's not, but either way, it happens.  I made several good friends throughout college, but very few that I stay in touch with today.  The number one of course, is hubby!  We met in college, but didn't date - each other that is!  I was dating one of his fraternity brothers and he was dating one of my sorority sister!  We went to a lot of the same formals and saw each other at fraternity parties on weekends, we even double dated!  Dating each other didn't happen until several years later!  That story is for another day!  Bryan, my big brother from the fraternity where I was a little sister and I are back in touch after a very long time of being out of contact.  There's also Even Dave - funny thing, we grew up in the same town, but didn't meet until college!  Funny, most of the people that I know from college I have reconnected with through facebook!  It's fun to know what paths their lives have taken and chat from time to time, but certainly without the internet I wouldn't be in touch with hardly anyone from my college days either.  Funny thing is that hubby is in touch with a lot of his fraternity brothers - again through the miracle of the internet, but they have done a much better job of keeping in touch than I have!

After college, was a year of grad school (I do keep in touch with my roommate from that year, but no other classmates).  Then off to a different school in a different state for nursing school - I am still in touch with one of the 25 classmates, again through the internet!  Man, I'm pathetic!  

Once hubby and I were married, friendships took on a different perspective.  Although we often did things with other couples, usually one of us was friends with one of them and the other one went along for the ride!  Don't get me wrong, usually everyone enjoyed each other's company, but you meet through one spouse.  The exception being neighbors - especially once you buy your first house!  One friend that I stay in touch with from those early years we actually met the week before we moved into our first house!  We were doing some painting and they walked by on their way to a block party and introduced themselves!  We saw her just last weekend when she came out for Little G's First Communion - she's her Godmother! 
The other close friend from those days I met shortly after Big S was born.  The next phase in friendships - those you meet because of your kids!  We saw her just a year ago when she came out for Little S's First Communion - you guessed it, Godmother!!  Kids are a great ice breaker when it comes to meeting people.  Those same people become your support system as you journey through parenthood with all it's ups and downs!  By far the strongest friendships that I have formed throughout my lifetime were my playgroup friends that I made before any of my kids started going to school (real school, not preschool).  Although we are all spread out over several states now, there are five of us who first met through playgroups we were in when are kids were teeny tiny and now we get together once a year, just the five of us, for a long girls' weekend.  These women are the ones who were there for a lot of my kids firsts - even through my last pregnancy and Little G's birth - and they will be there for weddings, grandbabies, and probably some funerals.  THESE women are the definition of friendship!  Lisa, Jen, Molly and Heidi - we call ourselves the ToeTat5 and we are bonded for life through some fabulous cosmic connection that none of us quite understand but are thankful to God for it's existence!
Then there are the "community" friends.  Those you meet through your kids' school, work, neighborhood, volunteer organizations, church etc....  They are important to have and serve their purpose - some form stronger bonds than others and there are certainly several in my life right now who are very important to me (most of whom I met through church) but because life is so busy it takes a long time for these friendships to really become strong and more often than not you part ways due to simple circumstance and you drift apart.  These types of friendships are important because we need people who know each aspect of us: the parent, the school volunteer, the church member, the community volunteer....  They learn bits and pieces of the other sides of us, but they really shine in the area where you first met! Sometime those friends cross paths - a mom from school may also go to your church, and so because you see each other more often, you get to know each other better and the friendship grows stronger (or you figure out that you have nothing in common and decide to keep it on the surface!!).

Regardless of your stage in life, it's important to remember that your true friends are the ones who know you from the inside out, share not only interests, but also values and priorities, know when you need a shoulder to cry on and when you need some time alone.  These people will show themselves to you if you give them a chance - the others will show their true colors in due time as well.  Not everyone was meant to be friends with everyone else - love thy neighbor?  Absolutely, but you don't have to be their best friend too!  Take a moment and reach out to those true friends in your life - they are a true gift from God!


Ranch Girl said...

What a thoughtful wonderful post!

debbie said...

Gayle, this is just beautiful! I am blessed by your friendship:)