I’ve been thinking a lot about friends lately. My stepdad – the man who raised me since I was 5 years old – died on Thanksgiving Day. Since then I’ve received the most thoughtful sentiments via cards, emails, texts, and even the old-fashioned way – phone calls – from friends old and new. Some made the trek to LA to attend his memorial service.
One was my childhood best friend who I was practically married to by all accounts until we went to college. Through some sweeping friendship ebbs and flows over the years after college into mature adulthood, we’ve remained friends. I don’t have a sister and nor does she, but I think you could describe our relationship best as a sort of sisterhood. We don’t see each other often, but it’s always meaningful when we do.
Something this childhood friend of mine said at the memorial service for my deceased stepfather really stuck out to me. She said, (paraphrasing slightly) “Shana, I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. We grew up together…”
I think there is just something magical about the childhood memories we make with our friends when we are little. She was there through it all – my parent’s divorce, both of their remarriages, birthday parties, graduations – virtually every childhood milestone. That’s why it is so important to me to give my kids the opportunity to build enduring bonds with their friends as they grow and experience the good, the bad, and everything in between in this life.
This same childhood best friend of mine and I met in the sandbox when we were 3 years old (she was 2). I think what is most remarkable is that our parents became close friends over the years. To this day, our mothers are still best of friends.
Her mother gave me a big hug at my setpfather’s memorial service. We rarely see each but that hug conveyed 40+ years of memories to me. It was so heartfelt and maternal. There was a tiny part of me that felt like I was a little girl again playing with her daughter at her house (where I practically grew up) and I’d stubbed my toe or something and was in pain. And she was comforting me. As if no time had passed.
I’ve been very fortunate to have developed growing friendships with the parents of Margaret’s closest friends. I have gotten to know and really enjoy spending time with the parents of one group of friends she’s known since her early elementary school days. Together, with our girls and (sometimes with our husbands and other children) we’ve gone camping, to the theater, and just hung out at each other’s houses on holidays and special occasions. It’s at the point where if our kids did not continue to be friends for some reason (and I doubt that will happen), I would want to continue to be friends with them.
I’ve always placed a high value on friendships. So, it’s odd that I never really thought that I’d care about developing friendships with the parents of my children’s friends. Boy was I wrong. I’m seeing the endless benefits of growing these types of friendships. Not just for the sake of our children’s growing friendship, but also because it makes everything so much more meaningful for us as adults.
As dreary as it sounds two days before Christmas, inevitably I’m going to be the one whose life my friends and family are remembering one day when I die. And when that happens, I will want my friends who knew my girls since they were little to give the most heartfelt hugs to them as they grieve.
One of the greatest gifts we can give and receive is friendship. Especially the unexpected ones we’ve made as a result of our children. Because if we do things right, long after we’re gone, that gift of friendship will keep giving.