My mother resurrected a childhood friend of hers in her eighties, and I remember asking, “Mom, why didn’t we ever see Anne before?” Her answer? “We were busy.”
Anne had grown up with her; they shared single-women adventures as they searched for mates and they’d gone to each other’s weddings. And then, a huge interrupter called marriage cut a wide swath through the relationship. My mother, like so many of her generation, relinquished girlfriends in favor of her new role as wife and mother. If she had any interaction with other adults, it rotated around those twin responsibilities. As such, she volunteered for the church, involved herself in PTA, chaperoned school events, etc. Friends retreated to backdrop or disappeared altogether and years went by.
In my mother and Anne’s case, decades passed.
These two women reconnected after some sixty years of occupying their own separate worlds; their kids were now adults and their husbands had died. In my estimation, they were profoundly lucky to get the opportunity to reconstitute the friendship.
Today, I work hard to initiate friendships and keep close the friends I have. They come from all walks of life and they provide color and texture to my world.
In my retirement state, for instance, I have a fabulous group of women who come from all over the country. They’re not so heavily vested in family that they exclude everything else. In other words, they’re adventurous, want to get involved with others; they’re not restricted to “family things.” This trait appears to be a byproduct of folks who live in areas peopled by those from elsewhere. Since they lack real family, they create their family of friends. Wasn’t that the premise for that wildly successful show on television, the one named as such?
Our group of women gets together for dinner regularly, and we howl our way through misery, fun, love, marriage, divorce, health issues, and childrearing (some of us are grandparents). We swap stories of past and present lives as employed workers, stay-at-home moms (or some combination of the two), and parents. We glorify past lovers and vilify those who “did us wrong.” In this way, we’re barometers for one another, steadying us through turbulent times.
And they’re so-o talented. One can fashion a Bunsen burner out of an empty tuna can (recall Buddy Burner from Girl Scout days) an arguable talent in that we’ll probably never find ourselves in the forest needing a pot. More impressive, she can change a flat tire in minutes (of course I had to tell her “those things” on the wheel are called lug nuts). A second woman in our group is off to India for training before she begins service to at-risk kids in Pakistan; a third just stepped off a plane in the Netherlands, she’s beginning a backpacking expedition to three countries (I did this at forty-two, but at fifty-five-plus?). They’re witty, different, and have scads of life experience.
It’s so much easier when one has a network. It wasn’t always this way.
In my first marriage, I managed to satellite my husband’s world. As such, I let my own relationships slide. When the marriage exploded, I had few friends to cushion my fall. In essence, I unknowingly repeated my mother’s mistake of devaluing her own needs and forgoing her relationships.
When life continued unkind, I stewed in my own juices. Years passed and the only real interaction I had was at my job or with my own children, time that was generally fractured in that I was usually racing to fulfill some parental responsibility; it wasn’t exactly “quality time.”
Today, I put a wide net out and interact with many. You see, I’m making up for lost time. When I began engaging in a larger sense, I found the response encouraging, so I stepped up my initiative. What I found astounded me: women from all walks of life who fascinate!
But I’ve created my own litmus test for friendship. I want to people my world with “givers,” those who spend precious little time nursing old wounds; they refuse victimhood status. On the flip side, I’m done with “takers,” too, those who focus on their own happiness and how I can augment it.
In other words, I’m looking for reasonable reciprocity.
Recently I was at a political gathering and I found myself in the center of the mix. Women sat at either side of me, and in my zeal to engage, I was hopeful at the prospect of meeting yet another sister on this journey of life. But, in both instances, I found myself working hard to pull conversation from each.
Neither appeared to have interest in topics that didn’t revolve around them. They never asked about my personal or professional life, views on varied and sundry topics … nothing. Oh, they talked about themselves, where they were going, what they were doing. I listened, I measured, and then moved on to others in the group.
You see, Biddy cannot waste time in atrophied endeavors. I got the wake-up call late that life is a smorgasbord filled with interesting characters who can teach me much. If this means I discard some who remain locked in their own little worlds, so be it … Maybe they’ll be fortunate, too, in getting the call to go out and discover before it’s too late. As for me, I must make tracks …
Too many good women friends (yet undiscovered) await and Biddy knows all too well her time is limited.
The original “fisherperson,” Jesus, beside the Sea of Galilee, called for brothers Simon and Peter to go forth and be “fishers of men.”
Question: Can men forge better friendships with other men? Of course. Look to Christ, for your model; he was the original fisherperson.