….but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.”
I learned this song when I was a Brownie Girl Scout, back in about 1963. I remember trying to figure out what it meant; should I make new friends? Or should I hang on the ones I already knew? Back then, from the vantage point of second grade, it seemed pretty easy. I only had three or four “old friends” anyway! Why not add some new ones?
And so as the years rolled by, I made new friends in every classroom, in each new grade. I met new and interesting girls, with cool toys or big houses or fabulously slobbery dogs. I added them to my list of “birthday party friends” and felt great about it.
When I got to Junior High and High School, the idea of increasing my circle of friends gained even more momentum, and I added cute boys to the mix. Fun. Seriously fun. So fun, in fact, that I actually fell in love with and married one of those friends when I was twenty two.
I continued meeting new friends as I became a young mother, sharing coffee, hand-me-down maternity sweaters and childbirth stories with other women. We moved to a new town, where I met more new people. I took a job in a great school system, where I have stayed for 17 years so far, and my circle continued to grow.
But a funny thing happened about 18 months ago. There was a High School reunion, and although the event itself was a little strained for me, it resulted in a reconnection with the people who were my closest friends when we were all eighteen years old. Last summer saw a weekend reunion on Cape Cod, followed by emails, calls, Facebook friendships and even some dinners together. It’s been fantastic, and I have to tell you that I was very reluctant to participate at first. My husband (the one I met in seventh grade and married after college), had to more or less drag me to the party.
So last night I hosted a dinner get together for five of my old gang, plus spouses. We all gathered at my house, where we settled quickly into sharing stories and swapping memories. Some moments were poignant, some were sad, but many were pretty hilarious. Even though it was the night before the very first day of school, I was happy to stay up very late laughing with my friends.
My real friends. The ones who are “gold”.
And all of this leads me to wonder: what is friendship anyway? These five women are my dear friends because, as one of them said last night, “We knew each other before we even became the people we are now.” We knew each other with zits, we knew each other before we had boobs. We shared the horrors of gym uniforms. We stood together on the sidelines at eighth grade dances, pining for something we didn’t even understand. We listened to “Four Way Street” so many times that we memorized every song in four part harmony, which we recreated at every opportunity. We baked each other birthday cakes, swapped sweatshirts and hair bandannas, and held each others’ hands through crushes, dating and heartbreaks. We understand each other at the simplest level. Once you’ve had a sleepover with someone, you are kind of bonded for life.
And so these friendships, the reconnection with these wonderful people, makes me feel like my life is coming full circle. I am once again sharing my thoughts with people who I met when we were younger than my youngest child. This sense of reconnection has given me back my base, my sense of solidity, my ability to remain grounded in time and space.
So I will make new friends at school, and in my town, and through my choir. But I will now happily keep the old. One is the silver of my life as a relatively settled and wise middle aged woman. But the other is the gold of those early years, when we dreamed of everything and believed that we would reach those dreams.