I believe in friendships that last a lifetime, and not because you stay connected on a weekly basis via phone, coffee date, email or even Facebook. But I believe in friendships that last a lifetime because for as long as a lifetime lasts, there is someone out there who values the characteristics that are unique to you (good and not-so-good) and feels the same level of appreciation and respect for you that you feel for them.
A true friend doesn't come with obligation or guilt to remember birthdays or reciprocate social invitations. A true friend comes with the security and power of knowing that they love you always, celebrate your successes no matter what, and feel your heartbreaks deeply.
I have one of these true friends and she is about to move hundreds of miles away. She explains it well when she says that a friend doesn't just know you, a friend gets you and loves you anyway.
This particular friend is my "That's Ok Friend" because she's cool with everything. If our opinions differ, that's ok. If I don't call her back, that's ok. We met when our children were very young and at a time when I needed permission for everything to be ok. New to my role as a mother, yet still without a revised self-identity I was in a foreign world, wading my way through motherhood and life in the suburbs. It's a stage in life that can be full of self-doubt, loneliness and opinions from others who are also trying to navigate their own way through.
But not my "That's Ok Friend." We have a mutual approach towards one another to just appreciate who we both are and not expect anything else. I like to think that we share a common trait of viewing the world around us, including things that are different from ourselves, through a lens filtered by curiosity, not judgement. Sometimes we recognize that we have a lot in common, and sometimes we recognize that we don't have much in common with each other and with others. And that's ok.
During our first conversation, our babies crawled on the floor around us and she revealed to me her plans for securing her children's admission to an Ivy League school (it involves making a move to South Dakota when they are teenagers). I loved her wacky but brilliant theory and liked her instantly.
As our children went from toddlers to preschoolers to grade schoolers, she continued to provide me with knowledge, laughter and intellectual stimulation during a stage of life that often lacks those things.
She confirmed my suspicion that when people say they went to school in Boston, it's really code for going to Harvard. I bounced ideas off of her and secured feedback on extra curricular activities for the kids. We debated religion, politics and a moral compass with settings unique to each individual. We played cards and drank cocktails. At parties, she would go outside for a smoke. And while I didn't smoke, I'd join her in the cold night air, just for the chance to steal a few minutes of solo conversation and laughter with her. And that was ok.
She encouraged me to start writing years ago. And when I finally did she cheered my successes.
When my life turned upside down after my second child was born unexpectedly still, she offered support in a perfectly gentle way. She didn't force conversation. She just kept persistently inviting my toddler and I over for play dates, simply offering a safe place and way to get out of the house during those long winter days.
The visits were never fussy or high-maintenance. She had post-it notes with spelling words for her kids stuck to her walls and I explained to her how to make a crock pot meal. She wore her high school cheerleading t-shirt and I wore my maternity jeans five months postpartum and that was ok.
A few years later when we were celebrating the anniversary of my daughter's death and birthday, my dear friend sent me a prayer and helped make that day a little closer to ok.
I still share this prayer every Thanksgiving:
"On this day, looking around this table, we naturally think of what God has
taken away from us. And, you know, I'm still pretty angry about it.
But right now I am looking around this table at my friends and family
and just thinking,
wow, Look At What God Has Let Us Keep.
And for that I am thankful."
She knows that this is a valued part of our holiday even without the big heart-to-heart conversation where I told her as much. And that's ok.
When I was pregnant with my third and fourth children, I didn't discuss baby names with many friends or family members. But I asked this friend for her opinion on names and listened intently as she offered it (even though she admittedly named her daughter after a soap opera character).
That soap opera name is written in black Sharpie on the inside of many of the sweaters hanging in my daughter's closet. We received her hand-me-downs as they came through a clothing trail that our friends used to pass on the stuff that didn't fit their kids anymore.
As our kids grew older and we got busier with their schools, our paths didn't cross as often. But when we did get together, it was always treasured time. I loved hearing about her family vacations around the world and she appreciated our road trip adventures. We swapped thoughts and philosophies on a continued variety of topics.
Now our oldest children are turning 10 and she is moving from the Midwest to the East Coast. I know how this will go, and that's ok.
We'll keep in touch casually with a text every so often, and she'll toss a Facebook "thumbs-up like" my way occasionally. But she'll never post anything. And that's ok.
I'll send her a holiday card every year and she'll send me an email to let me know how much she likes it, but she'll never send a card back. She doesn't do cards. And that's ok.
On the birthdays of my kids she'll send a text with well wishes and I'll feel her warmth over my phone. But I'll never remember to reciprocate. And that's ok.
And someday, I'll read about how one of her kids is a nominee for a seat on the Supreme Court or Nobel Peace Prize (no, kidding, I really will!), and I'll think to myself, "oh look at that... she did such a good job raising those kids." I'll be so proud of my friend, but it will have been years since we last spoke. And that's ok.
It's all ok because that's how a friendship for a lifetime goes. As we all know, we go through stages and phases of life. Along the way we pick up people who need to be there to accompany us through that particular stage. During this stage of adjusting to young motherhood in the suburbs I needed this friend for a sanity check as I navigated through both everyday stuff and life crisis stuff.
But just as this stage comes to a close, the friend who was an important lifeline is moving away. And that's ok.
Because I know, and she knows, that life is continued movement. And things always go most smoothly when that movement is in a forward direction. But every so often, we'll get caught up in wave of nostalgia and look back on this stage of life with a reverence reserved for only the most sacred of times. This is the phase where we discovered ourselves as mothers. And the people who surrounded us during this most sacred of times will hold the most tender of spots in our hearts.
And so my friend is off for a new stage and new phases, and that's ok.