We value friendship so much that we’ve created an entire holiday that revolves around love. Every Valentine’s Day, from early childhood through old age, we think about who our best friends are and honor them with a token of our esteem. If we’re lucky, some of the same little guys who received our one-sided heart-filled cards scrawled with our childhood spelling of “yur frend,” are still on our Valentines’ list. After all, 19th century Welsh composer Joseph Parry spoke words of wisdom when he wrote,”Make new friends, but keep the old; those are silver, these are gold.”
But it’s not likely.
Much has been written about the seasons of friendships, the right person appearing when we need a friend, then both parties moving on when the friendship has played itself out.But I’ve discovered a wonderful truth: Some of those who played a significant role in our early lives now—after a long absence—have an equally important part to play in later life.
I call these “bookend friendships.”
My own life has stored a collection of friends, very few who have traveled with me from the very beginning. Most have wandered into my life at various points, and while many stayed others disappeared.
But alas! Some reappeared. And those are the magical, almost mystical, friendships. The richness of a bookend friendship lies in the powerful blend of those-are-silver and these-are-gold.
I’ve been blessed with a number of these treasures in my later years.
Gianeen, for example.
Fifty years ago, my best friend Gianeen and I had a horrible fight about whatever it is middle schoolers fight about, and she never spoke to me again. Left behind were just the first pages of our shared life—five short years of school, Brownie Scouts, secret clubs, roller skating, and neighborhood night games.
And then, thirty years later, a letter arrived.
She wondered where life had taken me, and she assured me that she had thought of me on my birthday every year. After filling each other in on the chapters of our lives since we’d parted, we resumed our friendship, although from distance states. Recently, Gianeen came to my town for a brief visit. We stared into each other’s faces, our eyes lined with wrinkles, but twinkling still. We walked into the house, a little slower than before, but with the pep of excitement. And we talked as if we’d never been apart.
Pure silver, pure gold.
In the course of our conversation we discovered we both shared the same bucket list item. So before she left for home, Gianeen and I went ziplining in the Rocky Mountains.
Our second bookend was now in place.
My reunion with Gianeen is only one of the bookends that flank the tomes of my life. I also reconnected with an elementary school teacher, several college friends who had faded away, and the most exhilarating of all: a slew of students I taught in the 1970s three states away.
I was a mere twenty-two years old when I met those California high schoolers. Now we’re practically the same age; what does ten years matter when you’re this old? When I left their school, I thought I’d never see them again, and I wouldn’t have but for Facebook, followed by a few visits to spend time with them in person. Volumes of their lives had unfolded during the long absence, every one of those “kids” outdoing me in one way or the other.
Purer silver, more precious gold I can’t imagine.
All my friendships, these and those, hold value: the ones I’ve known steadily through many decades right along with the ones that survived a hiatus.
After all, as author Anaïs Nin wrote, “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
The gift is in rediscovering what that original meeting was all about and opening to what new world might be born in the reconnection.
©2015 Maggie McCann Pike
Maggie McCann Pike
- KIDNAPPED: CARING ENOUGH
- FIRST CHOICE AWARD FROM SAN DIEGO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE 2015