With a Little Help From My Friends

As I’ve grown older, some of my memories have faded with time.  Others remain just as vibrant as the day they occurred. I can’t remember my first day of high school, but on my first day of middle school I remember the “cool kids” on the bus teased me about my outfit.  I have a vivid mental picture of my brother accidentally hitting me in the face with a snow shovel when I was in second grade. As I ran into the house with blood gushing from my lip he kept saying, “I’m sorry!  Please don’t tell mom!”  However, I cannot recall a much more important event, the day my little sister was born. These lapses cause me to wonder why we hang on to more trivial memories, when others which seem much more important fade like colored paper that’s been left in the sun.  One would assume our childhood friendships would suffer a similar fate. I’m talking about the friendships made from elementary school through college that time and distance should have altered.  As we grow older, it’s these friendships that by all accounts we should have long forgotten. Yet many times these people seem to know us best, even though we may seem very different than we were twenty or thirty years ago.

I read an article by Lindsay Holmes in The Huffington Post titled “10 Things Only Your Childhood Best Friend Understands.” One of the first lines of the article states that “Research suggests that strong social connectedness with best friends when we’re young could lead to more happiness and increased well-being as adults.”  I agree, but I don’t think it’s the connections that we make when we’re young that make us happy.  I think it’s the reconnections we make with those friends when we are adults that keep us going.

Many women (myself included) hit a time in their lives when they become so absorbed with career/children/marriage that the bonds they formed with childhood or college friends start to fray.  We stop getting together for coffee, then the phone calls are fewer, and before you know it months or in some cases years have gone by and we’ve lost track of the people who used to be our touchstones for true friendship. It’s not intentional—life and the needs and wants of others always seem to absorb all of our time.  Then one day, while putting together the kids’ lunches or getting ready for work, an old song will come on the radio, bringing memories flooding back to the surface.  Memories of driving around town in your best friend’s Chevette and singing Steve Miller’s “The Joker” as it blasts from the cassette player. Reciting all of the words to The Pixies “Gigantic” while drinking pots and pots of coffee with your roommate.  Sloshing through puddles of beer with your friends while dancing to David Bowie’s “Modern Love” in a college town bar.  What happened to these wonderful souls who were the staples of your life? As the day marches on, your mind keeps drifting back to these memories; your coworkers ask why you’re smiling, and you realize that although you’re sitting at your desk at work, you’re reliving days gone by on your mental movie screen.

At this point, you have a decision to make.  You need to decide if you’re satisfied with just reminiscing about “the good old days,” or if you want to make the effort to contact your old pals through social media searches or the old-fashioned telephone.  When I was faced with this choice, I decided to do the later, and I’m forever thankful.  Over the past ten years, I’ve reconnected with my closest friends from both high school and college.  I even got together with my college roommate whom I hadn’t seen in 25 years!  The amazing thing I’ve learned from these reunions is that although we are older and wiser, the original connections that caused us to become friends in the first place still remain today.  With these people by our sides we overcame our teenage insecurities.  Together we struggled through homesickness when we first went away to college.  Armed with a box of tissues (and a pint or two of ice cream) we helped each other pick up the pieces after painful break ups.  Childhood friends know us in ways others do not.  They have seen us at our worst and most vulnerable, and stood by us.  Sharing these formative experiences creates a different type of bond.

Our childhood pals often understand our family dynamic and our emotional weaknesses better than many others we see on a daily basis in our adult lives.  Now that our lives have come full circle, what better people to have in our corner while we face raising teenagers and caring for our aging parents.   Our old high school dramas have been replaced with career pressures and the daily offenses of the adult world. But on my worst days as a grown up, no one can make me laugh as long and as hard as my friends from my youth!  Those laughs are by far the best part of reconnecting with my oldest and dearest friends. So if you’ve heard an old song on the radio that’s made you remember those friends from long ago, take the next step and look them up.  I promise you won’t regret it!


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