Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth." – Robert Southey

I've been thinking a lot about friendships.  Several reasons.  

One, I have none.  I mean, here in Richmond.  We are starting over completely. After having my life swarming with people for years, this blank calendar feels odd.  I tell myself to appreciate the quiet, because it's a temporary state until we settle in.  And in many ways, I do...for the first time that I can remember, we have so much breathing-space in our life.  But my extroverted self itches for whom to call about dry cleaner recommendations...going jeans shopping with me...whatever. 

Two, Mikey's death was a loss of a friendship I thought I'd have for life. And it's lit this fire to go around collecting my precious persons...gathering them up...telling them how much I appreciate their lives and their contributions to mine...

Three, going through my tub of old letters, emails, cards, and photos of Friendships Past made me realize how many truly great persons have filtered through my life.  I've had people who really knew me...understood my illogical, often contradictory layers...and accepted me for that. 

I don't think I've appreciated that enough.  And Steve and I talk often about how complicated it is to develop those friendships now, with young children, careers....oh yes, and moving frequently.  That makes things tricky.  :)  But when I find those persons who really click with me, I want to find ways to keep them relevant in my life. 


I'm seeing how much writing played a part in my friendships over the years.  In the last 5 years or so, my collection of long emails just stopped.  Even with my closest friends.  We text or see each other in person over coffee or talk on the phone or Facebook.  But that era of delving into self on paper went away.  I assume that's technology, in part?  The same friends who were writing multiple-page emails 10 years ago now connect with me via Facebook, text, etc.

I wonder what this will mean for my children's future friendships? Will they ever write emails and letters the way I did with my friends?

The reams of emails between Steve and me during our dating period have turned into long talks after we're supposed to have gone to sleep...or talking in the kitchen, like tonight.  He's in tax season, so he gets home late...when the kids have been asleep for a few hours already.  I was cleaning up the kitchen and we just sat down at the table, instead of sitting somewhere comfortable, like the couch.  We thought it was going to be a quick chat about the boys' new school and then ended up spending over an hour, eventually delving into complexities of educational philosophy and what we most want to teach our children.

Those moments mean so much to me.  In this period of Steve not getting home until 10 or 11 at night, that hour or so of uninterrupted time can fuel my tank for the entire next day.  

But then I look at these written letters from 5-10 years ago, and see HOW MUCH I've forgotten of what I wrote. Or what others wrote to me.  They captured time in a way my memory would completely fail to do. 

I unearthed a 4-page letter from Mikey that nearly stopped my heart.  I didn't know I had it.  Didn't remember, anyway.  But what he wrote about and what he shared with me in it, I sat stunned and then started crying.  Not just with grief, but with gratitude.  That there was this part of him...this cross-section of our friendship...that I would have forever.  I knew at the time that the letter meant something to me - that's why I saved it - but I didn't know it would eventually be one of the few tangible keepsakes of my 20 year friendship with him.

Gil's god, nearly every one of them could win a Pulitzer...his writing is that freakin' amazing.  Mikey's wise, articulate, self-aware conversations...and always, always a post-script about fashion.  Larsy's quirky, purposeful misspellings that still make me smile ('czech your email').  Steph, Melissa, Kel, Kim...these great, chatty emails that tracked all sorts of details about our college life and into adulthood.  So many details I would have completely forgotten. 

What I'm seeing is that friendships evolve and change over a lifetime. Instead of sitting around on bunk-beds in dorm rooms, I'm catching a few hours at a coffee shop.  Comparing thoughts, insecurities, stories about our kids...instead of about professors or boyfriends or whatever.  And instead of long emails or handwritten cards, it's a text or Facebook message.  

But all of this contemplation in the last few weeks makes me realize how deeply important connections have been to me...strangely timed with realizing I have no Richmond connections.  

So...I guess I should do something about that?


treesalldance said...

Sarabeth, I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. I lost a childhood friend to pancreatic cancer when we were just 25. 7 years later, it still stings. I never thought about the loss of the written word due to changing social media connections, but you're totally spot on! There were friends I would see for coffee weekly and we would still send tons of email to one another. Facebook has ended that. Sometimes it feels like everyone has gotten too busy, too swept up in their own lives, to enjoy that luxury.

Sarahbeth said...

It really is a shift to the new "normal" - especially for people like us, who really enjoy words and writing. :) I wonder if it will feel that way for our kids, who never had that in the first place?