Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Thing About Old Friends

I'm just going to say it.  

I am a very popular person.  I have lots of friends.

There it's out there.  

Well maybe you guessed it when I told you I have been a bridesmaid to eight people.  I don't want to put on airs, it's just a simple fact:  I have lots of friends.  I have always had lots of friends.  Probably because I am an only child.

I have new friends, old friends, smart friends, red-headed friends, Greek friends, Prairie friends, school friends, work friends, foreign friends, local friends, friends with dogs, friends with cats.  The list goes on.  So I know about friends.  And there is one pocket of friends that I think is especially special:  the old ones.

I mean the really old ones.  Not as in, they are eighty like my Aquafit friends, but the friends who have been around for a couple of decades.  I have two in the 20-year range (who I have both been a bridesmaid to) but I have only one friend that has been with me for a quarter of a century (yes, I realize this is close to the friends of 20 years friends, but I the difference between 4 and 9 is great, and she has been my friend since I was 4).

When I was a little girl on the farm, I had a pretty idyllic childhood (not that the city one was not, but the country does have its charm).  Idyllic in that my school had skating days on the local pond, that we could go berry picking in the field next to us, and that my BFF lived on a massive farm with her seven siblings.  To an only child on a smaller farm, her life seemed foreign and magical.

The days I would spend with her on her farm were AWESOME.  We would play all day (and the day seemed to have a billion hours) in the playhouse, on the trampoline, in the house next door that belonged to her great-grandmother but was now empty, in the hay bales, and by the creek in the cow pasture.  The days were filled with snap peas from her garden, chasing cows with the quad, and lying in the grass and watching the sky drift above us.  Through the night we would giggle about boys at school and sneak cookies.

Then I moved away. But we still wrote every week and when I went home to my grandma's we would always have one magical day on the farm.  By the time we hit our early-twenties, she got married and started a family while I moved to the Rainy City to become an actress.  Our lives could not be more different.  But thanks to the wonders of facebook, we now can keep closer tabs on each other and communication is a bit easier.

This is not the point of my now long story.  The point is, that just last week, I drove down to her home and had a very lovely visit.  She now is a mother to five, count them - FIVE, children.  All of whom are minnie-hers, absolutely adorable, and totally well behaved.  We sat in her backyard, under the tall oak trees, drinking iced lattes, talking about our childhood and what happened to all our friends, with her kids playing around us.  She turned to me and said "I love this!  We haven't seen each other in years and I don't feel awkward at all.  It's just normal."  And that's what it was.  Just normal.  

The reason we have friends is so that they can help us become better people.  They teach us lessons and show us ways of living that inspire us and help us live our own lives.  It's a nice circle.  As we sat there, smiling and laughing I felt refreshed and energized by the lesson (and lessons) she was teaching me. 

 #1 - Old friends, no matter how often you see them or talk to them, know you from the beginning and will help remind you of where you come from (so you can go back when you get lost)

#2 - Money isn't everything.  Sometimes in Rainy City I get caught up with the car, the house, the clothes.  But something must be said for maybe not having a ton of money, but enough to eat well and stay at home with a family that loves you.  I don't think I have ever seen anyone as happy as my friend who just loves her life with her whole heart (and looks about 20 - maybe that's why?)

#3 - Do what you love.  My friend has done some cool things - like work in a hospital with nuns in Africa helping deliver babies to women who had been genitally mutilated.  But at a young age, she really knew that what she wanted more than anything was to be a mum.  So she did.  And she is happy happy happy.

I drove home with a sense of peace and a smile on my face.

That's the thing about old friends:  they are always there when you need it most (even if you didn't know it).

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