With my daughter having just left for college this year, I am turning ( even more ) of my attention to nurturing friendships. It’s hugely important to me and for most of my friends as we move into a new phase of parenting adult children who live far away. So a few weeks ago my oldest friend came to visit and it reminded me of something I wrote about our friendship a few years back…..
In 1968 I was 12, had just begun attending a girls school and still wore carter’s brand white cotton t-shirts and waist high plain white panties. So did my soon to be lifelong friend,Carol. It was the carters t-shirts that we still laugh about as bringing us together – together in humiliation, that is. Our names were alphabetically linked, so thus were our gym lockers. While the more developed, sophisticated girls pranced around in their bikini panties and colorful bras, we would eye them with envy, then change surreptitiously behind our locker doors ,hoping no one would notice our plain jane childlike underwear,or mere buds underneath. In those moments I vividly remember feeling as though I would never grow up, and also deeply grateful I had Carol, with whom to share my indignities.
We see each other now only once a year, with Carol still in Michigan and I, in Maine. But it is always as though we never separated. There is a long embedded familiarity that brings comfort and tenderness to our relationship. Once I introduced Carol to another close friend who claimed somewhat in awe :
“I could never get away with saying the kinds of things that Carol says to you…”. For one short year,in 1990, Carol and her family lived in Portland. It was heavenly, almost cosmic, having her so close.We were young mothers, once again finding solace in each other support and simple presence. It also brought to light differences, which as of yet had gone undetected, or at least unacknowledged: I believed in nursing through toddlerhood, Carol’s mantra “ Cut them off at a year !” I short circuited my career to be a stay at home Mom, Carol continued practicing law. I let my son have ice cream when ever he liked, Carol practiced more prudent eating habits. And on it went. Yet through those differences,our relationship not only survived , but grew even deeper. Neither of us fled; we knew the richness that fills a landscape of differences , expressed and accepted. By journeying through that ring of fiery differences, we were gifted with the sweet,fresh center of lifelong honest connection.
Over the years we’ve stayed in touch in the regular ways- nothing out of the ordinary. But I feel our friendship is extraordinary, in today’s culture of gobbled up time , invisible unspoken boundaries, and narrow definitions of intimacy. Being with Carol is like skinny dipping in a fresh mountain pond.
I wear grown up bras now, and panties in garish colors. But deep within, there is still a tinge of that self conscious 12 year old girl ,peeking through at the most inopportune moments; looking for and treasuring the sanctity of an honest, adoring friendship.