Monday, December 29, 2008
The bovines here seem emblematic of a kind of friendship, looking out as one upon the moving world beyond the fence. Or perhaps they are mother and daughter.
In any event, following a visit from an old dear friend this weekend, I’ve been thinking about friendship, the kind we have in a world where families are fragmented and people dispersed thousands of miles from where they were born. This circumstance has been more the rule than the exception for my generation, and those born even a decade or so before me.
One result, of course, is that it has become difficult to stay involved in the lives of friends, particularly the friends of one’s youth.
Maybe it was inevitable that the internet would spring up to collapse those distances with an ease not dreamed of by my immigrant grandmother, who did her connecting with pen and paper. She wrote letters every day, to siblings and cousins in France and Germany, to best friends from school even though one of them lived in Hong Kong, and the other had become a nun in Tennessee. She wrote letters to her four daughters, wherever they were, and the circulation of these letters provides for her descendants a window into the world they inhabited.
We today use email, and we blog. We find new friends, blogging, and the connection does a great deal to fill the holes left by the distances we have moved across the planet in our diaspora of prosperity and commerce.
So when the chance arrives to spend time with a childhood friend, it’s both rare and extraordinarily special.
My friend Donna lived two streets away from me in high school. We played basketball, tennis, and other sports together; we carpooled; together in my car, we snuck into Rice University to visit her boyfriend; I was there the morning after her dad—brandishing his shotgun—ran off a carload of boys intent on wrapping her trees with toilet paper. He’d grown tired of removing this emblem of adolescent popularity. Later, I lent her the first SLR she’d used, and she quickly surpassed me in her photographic skill. We married very different men, and for a long time we lived quite different lives less than two blocks apart on the eastern side of the neighborhood where we grew up. She moved away, finally.
Then, when LH and I began to live parttime in Santa Fe, there she was, with her second husband, Walt. After half a lifetime, two marriages and one divorce each, we reconnected. We see each other now in bursts, when grandchildren bring her and Walt to Texas. And at those times, we find ourselves moving forward in conversations deepened by references both of us—and few others—understand. There is considerable comfort to this, and to the way we can see the other shining through the changes time has wrought upon our exteriors. She remains each incarnation of the self she has been over time, and I can only hope I am the same for her.