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Friending

A friend of mine was visiting from out of town for a conference recently, and a group of her women friends gathered to see her. We ordered in pizza, and the woman who was hosting lit candles, which she arranged on her twin boys’ ping pong table, opened a bottle of wine, and baked heart-shaped mint brownies. I arrived first, and watched as everyone walked in and gushed “It smells so good!” “Wow – candles!” as the hostess handed them glasses of wine. We sat around and caught up, talking about our kids and our work, the pros and cons of being on Facebook, and finding time to exercise. The conversation could not help but come back, over and over again, to how nice it was to be sitting together in this house, eating on pretty plates (which we would not have to wash), drinking wine, candles lit, on a week-night.

The hostess told us all we had to get out more.

We told our visiting friend she had to visit more.

We thought about starting a non-book club book club.

Then dessert was served and one woman said that she should come here to get her daily dose of fruit – it looked so much more appealing than in her house. I agreed – who ever has time to cut up a pineapple? We all laughed at ourselves, acknowledging how nice it was to be mothered.
When I first moved to the West Coast, before I had children, I was tired of making new friends. I missed my old friends, my “real” friends, dispersed across the globe. I hated the phone, the time-differences, and all of the superficial technological innovations that create the illusion of “being in touch.” I missed touching them. I still do, terribly. But I have become more open to my definition of friendship. I’ve realized that there are many types of friends; for me, the common denominator for the basis of all friendships is sharing pivotal life experiences while living in close proximity. Friends are the people who have at some point given you a hug when you need it. They are people with whom you’ve shared pineapples, face to face, and then, later, the people with whom you talk about that pineapple, and whose hugs you remember.

When I became a mother, I became friends with other mothers, mothers who live nearby, whose kids play with my kids. We are sharing together one of the most profound journeys, and, thrust together by circumstance, we have become friends. In today’s age of countless Facebook friends, and of vast geographic distances separating us from the people who have known us our entire lives and with whom we feel the closest, these friends are precious. I’ve come to accept that new friends don’t annul old friends, just as a new child does not diminish the love one has for an older child. As Papa Bear sings to Baby Bear in Three Bears and a New Baby, “I love her cuz she’s curly and small; I love you cuz you’re furry and tall – curly and small love, furry and tall love, everyone loves through all their days, different people, different ways.”
We have a capacity and a need for endless friendships; these friendships arise in different circumstances and fill different needs, and, rather than negating one another, they accentuate the uniqueness of each era of our lives, revealing the infinite prism that compiles our very selves.

–Maya Bernstein