Monthly Archives: January 2012

Golden Oldies?

Old Friends and New


“You can make wonderful new friends, but you can never make an old friend,” my friend, Carol, told me a few years ago. I’m not sure what she was referencing, but its truth still reverberates in my head. Although I have made fantastic new friends since we moved to Palm Springs, there’s a tie that binds you to your old friends that is enduring. A shared history cannot be created anew.

Carol and I have been friends since seventh grade. We both are educators, although within the field we took different paths. We now take a Girl Trip every year with two other friends we’ve known since we were—well—girls. Judy I’ve known since first grade. Joan, since I was ten. These get-a-ways have ranged from staying at a cabin on an island in Washington state to a spa experience in Napa. But it doesn’t matter where we are—at The French Laundry or grilling in the backyard, each trip is an immersion in memories, talks about what we are doing and thinking now, and always, always, laughter that evolves into outright giggles.

When we go on these trips, we share a room. I haven’t shared a room with anyone but a family member for a long, long time. I was a little nervous about it. I like to stay up reading until pretty late, and I’m not a good sleeper. Would I disturb my roommate? What about bathroom issues? Closet space? Plucking a hair on my chin?

It ended up that I shared with Judy. She and I have very similar handwriting for two reasons. One, we were both in Mrs. Dorn’s class and we learned to write from her. (I know this for a fact because I recently looked at my sixth grade picture. On the back, Mrs. Dorn had written something in handwriting that is close to identical to mine.) The second reason is that although I was actually sloppier, I loved the way Judy’s writing looked so I copied her.

But, I digress as usual. Back to sharing a room. Although we share similar script, our lives had moved in very different directions. Judy became an executive in a large company. I taught in a small school, and did diapers. We hadn’t been close for decades. Would this work, I wondered. My fears were put to rest as we put out our products on the bathroom counter. Toothpaste, the same. Shampoo, the same. Vitamins, the same. Etc, the same. It was truly astounding.

I come away from these trips knowing more about me than when I arrived. My old friends have memories of me that I have forgotten. It has become a merging of who I was with who I am, and brought me a sense of wholeness that I didn’t even know was lacking.

Last night, we had two couples over for dinner that we have known for a thousand years. We all got married within a month of each other. As I set the table, I thought of all the times we’d had each other over before—how as young brides, we’d been trying to impress with our limited hostess prowess. As young parents, we’d have the gang of babies lined up in high chairs. Then, in a flash, our kids had grown up and we all have grandkids.

We aren’t as close as we once were—geographically we are spread out. Our lives have diverged, but we know each other so very well. The conversation last night could have been on the same topic—childhood pranks and travails—but it couldn’t have been the same with new friends. That’s because when Gloria told the story of how she had gotten her older brother into trouble, I could picture it exactly. Her brother was my brother’s best friend. When Mike talked about his mother, I could picture her exactly—because I knew her. And that’s how the night unfolded—story after story that we all connected to.

I am leading a writing workshop with Carol this winter at an assisted living facility. One topic we had the seniors write about was what they cherished now that they didn’t before. Ava wrote that it was friendship. Before, she’d had her husband and children, her music and her place in the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Now, she cherished her closeness to her friends.

So I guess the Girl Scouts have had it right all along: “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.”

Days of Wonder

Days of Wonder.

Days of Wonder

Sometimes we get so caught up in the details of living that we forget what life is all about. Then comes along what social scientists call, a life cycle event, and you have the opportunity to remember. That’s where we are right now—in the most positive way possible. Our daughter just had a baby girl and we are reveling, not only in the baby, but in the miracle of birth. It is a time that finds us in awe of creation.

Joeli was born in the morning on New Year’s Day. She is exactly one-week-old as I write this. I am in Seattle helping out Joeli’s mom, dad and big brother and I wouldn’t give up these days for a trip to Bhutan (a place I’d love to visit, but probably will never get to J.) I can sit holding her for an hour, just watching her. I don’t need the television on, the Internet running or the phone at my ear. I am just immersing myself in the moment—I am so aware that life doesn’t get any better than this.

I’m not talking perfect here—sleep deprivation, poopy diapers, breast feeding challenges for my daughter, getting my grandson off to school early in the morning and other issues—these are all part of the package. But with all of it, in the foreground is the awareness of how special this time is. For this whole week, it is as if our world has stopped spinning, and we are in the cocoon of new birth.

“Look at her stretching,” my daughter will say. “Four days ago she was doing that inside of me!”

Yes, exactly, I will think. Sometimes when I’m holding Joeli against my heart and she kicks her tiny feet, it flashes me back to when I carried my own kids deep inside of my body.

This has been a time that has brought us all back to the basics—to all that is good in our nature. There is a simplicity to our days that has stopped the chatterbox in my head that insists on planning, listing and achieving. I know, even as I in-put this and prepare it for my blog, I am already leaving that place. I want to resist, but have to be realistic.

Maybe it’s because I am older that I have been able to stop and enjoy this time. When my other grandchildren were born, I was still working, still had parents who needed care, still in a frenzy to get it all in. As an older grandparent, the impatience of middle age is behind me and I have been able to step off the merry-go-round of my normal life.

Maybe it’s Joeli, herself. Whatever, it has been wonderful.