Here’s to Friends Far and Near

Four  months have passed since I took flight from my comfortable old zip code in California.

It’s starting to sink in that I was pretty hard on my friends when I announced that we had found our dream property in another state. In retrospect I was rather blasé over my quick-and-easy lifestyle change.  I filled every conversation with fun facts about my new house and community. My friends and family made brave faces and fixed frozen smiles while I assured everyone that we would stay in touch and that I would be back often to visit.

Truth is, my move hurt my family and friends more than it hurt me.

Come on now, let’s be honest. I’ve lost friends to the moving van. I know what it feels like to be left behind with vague promises that “we’ll stay in touch” while they replace me with new friends whose dogs wag at their knock. I get it—despite their smiles, my friends feel like they’ve been dumped.

I’m not trying to be egotistical here, simply stating a fact. I chose to leave—nothing forced me. For months now the task of settling into a new life consumed me and I’ve hardly looked back. But now I’m settled in. My address labels have arrived.  I’ve memorized the aisles of five different grocery stores. I belong to a critique group. I’m even taking long walks along the country roads again.

Last night a new neighbor invited us over for a “meet the neighbor” dinner party. Sitting in the room with smiling strangers I began to miss the solidarity of the friends I left behind. I began to wonder about the structure of friendship.

Here’s what I’ve got so far—My friends fit into four categories:

Long distance friends that I meet at conferences or writers groups. We share mutural interests. We connect with a stroke of the keyboard. These are project friends like the one I phoned yesterday in the hospital. We spent ten minutes talking about her health and another ten talking about our current projects and we were both fine with that.

Old friends who share my history.  These are the ones who surprise me with an email out of the blue, or a card, and make my day. The ones on my Christmas card list. The ones I know will spend the night on their way through town. Comfort friends.

Old neighbors and former co-workers. These are the ones I seem to run into every time I visit my old house. The ones I meet at the hamburger joint where I’m picking up a quick bite. These are the friends that add dimension to my life, remind me of my past. Pepper and salt friends. I’ve run into a couple of them in my new town and the serendipitous moment is breathtaking.

Developing Friendships. A friend reminded me of this one. For some reason, the last year at my old home produced some of the most satisfying friendships of my life. I found soul sisters with whom I connected on several levels. They are the ones that hurt the most to leave and I pray that we can find ways to sustain this fragile connection. Why now? was the question I asked myself as I packed and skipped town like a suitcase salesman with an unpaid bill. Guilt is a tough master.

Family members We shared an assumption that things would never change and now I appreciate my family more when I see them. My husband and I moved away from our children and we’re already making plans for extended visits. I have a new camera so I can Skype. I spend the night at my siblings and we talk over the dinner table.

Maybe there’s a category I missed, but I’m still a little numb from the move. It’s been harder than I thought, living in two worlds. I need my friends to step forward and help me out here. I’m haunted by the good friends that disappeared in the past while I assumed they had forgotten all about me. The truth is—they probably needed reminding.

—like the anonymous saying:

 Make new friends, but keep the old. One is Silver and the other is Gold. 

Do you have anything to add about hanging on to old friends? 

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