Feb 04

Thinking about Friendships, Old and New

‘Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold’

So read the first two lines from a poster I was given at the end of Year 6, more years ago than I care to count. The poster was part of a graduation gift from the staff at my primary school, with a different poster given to each child, each signed on the back by all the teaching staff.

I often wondered whether they chose this one for me because my best friend was about to head off to boarding school. I always took it as a little reminder that I should make an effort to stay in touch with that departing friend, which I did for many years, but the truth is it was probably just the poster on the top of the pile when they got to my name.

Whatever the reason, I can still recite most of the poem all these years later (more than 30 for those who are interested) and it has been particularly going through my mind lately when I have been making a real effort to give attention to old friendships that have faltered in recent years as I have withdrawn from many of my social circles due to health issues. I’ve also been thinking about new friends, as I’m making an effort to step beyond my family routine to focus on people and activities that I connect with personally, rather than as an extension of my family.

Today I unexpectedly had two encounters that represented the extremes of my current friendship experiences – a new acquaintance who visited for morning tea and a childhood friend who unexpectedly called in for a lightning-quick visit while in town on business.

The morning tea was lovely, an event that I hope will be repeated frequently in the future. This is a friendship that I can see developing into something wonderful and I hope that my visitor went away feeling as blessed as I did by our time together. We laughed together as well as covering a range of topics including our kids, ourselves and deeper issues of faith and belonging. It is a new friendship that has the potential to grow into something strong and sustaining for both of us.

While the early days of a new friendship lightened my spirit this morning, it was the visit of my long time friend this afternoon that really touched my heart. He’ll probably roll his eyes when he reads this, but I may have actually shed a tear or two after he left, not because I missed him so intensely (sorry PB), but because I felt so amazingly grateful that he values our history together in the same way I do.

We’ve known each other since childhood and been friends since we were teens, but we’ve gone many years without contact. We didn’t drift apart so much as stride defiantly away from each other, each nursing hurt feelings and a rock-solid belief that the other was not someone that we cared to know any longer. We got on with our lives, made different friends and moved in different directions. It happens.

Thanks largely to Facebook, we’ve reconnected in recent years. I get to see gorgeous photos of his very adorable little boy, he gets to eavesdrop on whatever inanity comes into my mind when I realise I haven’t updated my Facebook status recently.

As much as I am focused on exciting new opportunities in 2013, including developing some amazing new friendships, today’s visit with an old friend reminded me that we don’t have to disconnect ourselves entirely from our past to move forward. Our catch up has given me an appreciation for the experiences and relationships I’ve had in the past.  Not all the experiences were positive, not all the relationships were supportive, in fact several were quite the opposite, but as a composite, they have brought me to this point.

For me, today, there was something amazing about connecting with someone who knew me before. Before adulthood, before motherhood, before life became filled with dramas and responsibilities and decisions. Someone who knew me back then, and who still wants to know me now.

New or old, silver or gold, today I am grateful for friendship, both the exciting potential of new friendships and the comforting familiarity of more longstanding relationships.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. ~ Marcel Proust

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  1. Cathy

    That is lovely 🙂 I have made more new friends in the past 2 years than I have my entire life I think! However, my old/gold friends are still as important as ever. A childhood friend lives many hours away, we are not in contact as much as we would like, but when we are it’s as if no time has passed. We are having a weekend away soon, a luxory for us both, and we both looking forward to it so much. Mostly to have that time together with no one interrupting but also when you know someone that long, that comfort around each other is high, no walls, no barriers, we are kids riding our bikes round the neighbourhood again 🙂

  2. pb

    Didn’t roll my eyes…;-) but then it is 143am… they’re almost shut… it was a rambling jumbled overdue catch up which i really enjoyed. Thanks Sus.

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