It has been said that people “come into your life for a reason, season, or a lifetime,” but some are just seasonal lifetimes. It has also been said that you cannot make new old friends. True friendship is born by having shared experiences, and only time will tell if a friend stands the test of that time. So many things occur in life that separate old friends, rather than bring them together.
I’ve read that one of the biggest regrets of those facing death is not having kept in touch with old friends. Let’s face it, the older we get, the faster time seems to go, so there’s no time like the present to connect with old pals. Social media sites such as Facebook have made this easier and certainly more feasible. Admittedly, it’s easier to find male friends on Facebook because name changes through marriage make locating females a little more complicated. Although I’m only on Facebook occasionally, I decided to insert my maiden name on my personal account, and I’m glad I did.
Some years ago while on Facebook, I spotted my old friend Tamar, who was using her maiden surname. She wrote on her page: “California dreaming for my 60th.” I responded by saying that I lived in California and it would be great to see her. I really didn’t think she’d follow up, but she did, and I’m thrilled to have spent some time with her on a recent weekend.
Ordinarily, Tamar’s 60th birthday would have gone unnoticed by me, although every October 17 for the past 40 years I’ve thought about her, wondering where she was and what she was doing. Tamar and I met at the International Teen Camp in Lausanne, Switzerland, when I was 15 and she was 16. Our parents were trying to bring some culture into our lives and get us out of stiflingly hot New York. We were roommates and immediately clicked, as we found that we had common sensibilities and a similar sense of humor.
During that summer in Switzerland, The Beatles were the worldwide rage, although only those who spoke English fluently really understood what the lyrics meant. However, the international teens from all around the world chimed along when we’d sing.
It was 1969, the year of the first moon landing, and Tamar and I recently reminisced about the small TV up in the corner of the gymnasium where kids from around the world watched this monumental event. Not us. We were more interested in giggling and flirting with the cute boys from the Middle East. I share this information with a little bit of embarrassment, but at my age, honesty is the best policy.
What I realized during Tamar’s recent visit is that the friends we make during our early years are the genuine ones. They’re the ones we feel most comfortable with. They were privy to the important secrets of our youth, so they love us for who we are and not necessarily for what we’ve accomplished, what careers we’ve had, how successful our marriages were, and how many children we’ve birthed. We are loved for our inner core.
Last week when I was in Florida visiting my daughter, I saw Barbara, an old junior high school friend. Prior to last year, we hadn’t seen one another in more than 40 years. I was amazed that we’d aged in a similar way, and it was as if no time had passed. We shared stories about old boyfriends and how strangely alike our family dynamics were.
The 1960s were the days when life was simpler — there were no computers, cell phones or text messages. Basically, we only had TVs and transistor radios. Also, some of us had record players playing 33s and cassette players. When Tamar and I were in Switzerland, we didn’t communicate with our parents for eight weeks. If they received a phone call from overseas, it meant that we’d either gotten in trouble or were ill. Communication was done the old-fashioned way–via those blue, folded airmail letters and postcards.
Back at home, my recreational activities included going to the local movie theater, ice skating, bowling, dancing, reading and listening to the music of the day. I wasn’t allowed to watch television, which probably contributed to my passion for reading. (It’s funny to see that now, my 85-year-old mother watches television all day long, but back then she treated it like a contaminated visitor in our home.)
My mother worked part-time as a receptionist in a doctor’s office, and I remember having the only working mom in my neighborhood — she was the only one who didn’t wait for me in the kitchen with an apron and homemade cookies. It’s not that she had to work — my father held a good job as a store manager — she just wanted to get out of the house a few hours a week to stimulate her brain. For the most part we went out to eat, although sometimes we ate Swanson TV dinners and Chinese takeout on our small aluminum kitchen table.
While I’ve made some good friends during my adult years, reminiscing about how we were during our teens was refreshing and fun for Tamar and me. What we’ve both come to learn is how little we’ve changed. She still saw me as a grown-up hippie, and I still saw her as a good communicator — accepting and a bit conservative. I was able to locate a photo of her in her room in Switzerland, and there was a pillow on her bed that said “Do Not Enter.” On another photo it said: “Dearest Diana: In the short time that we’ve known each other, you’ve showed [sic] me what it’s really like to love. I can’t remember what life was like before meeting you — it could not have been any good. It really is true love. I love you. Tamar.” Her words warmed my heart and made me aware that when we come into one another’s lives, we have no idea of the impact we’ll make.
This reminds me of a writing exercise I give my memoir students, which can be quite revealing. You might want to try it. I tell them: “Make believe you’re on your deathbed and there’s a line of people coming over to say good-bye. Those people have been chosen by you. Who would you choose, and why?”