Over the years I’ve learned a number of lessons when it comes to making new friends: my first impression of people is usually wrong and my husband’s is usually right, avoid drama queens at all cost and don’t trust a woman who doesn’t have old friends.
If you’ve gone through life making and breaking friendships, there’s probably something deeply wrong with you. I’m not exactly sure what that thing may be. Maybe you get clingy and chase them off. Maybe you borrow their designer shoes and return them with scuffs. Maybe you cut off their head and hide their body under the stairs. Whatever it is, I don’t plan on waiting around to find out.
As we grow older, I think it becomes more and more important to nurture our oldest friendships – the ones from the single-digit days. These are the friends who held the other end of the jump rope. The ones who helped you chase down boys that you liked just so you could kick them in the balls. The ones who remember – all too vividly – your self-choreographed dance routine to publicly profess your love to a boy named “Jimmy” (P.S. Jimmy didn’t love you back).
Which brings me to my friends from the Sunnyland Elementary days. Angie’s house was just across the freeway from mine. I can remember her telling me about the ghost that lived in her house (it did) and that she was going to name her first child “Mercedes.” We spent hours making home movies with a camcorder the size of a microwave and practicing to become high school cheerleaders (we didn’t). Somewhere around middle school Angie and I drifted apart and into different circles of friends but whenever I visit my hometown and bump into her, I feel somehow complete. Like I’ve come home to . . . myself.
We got together this past summer with another childhood friend, Mojan. Mojan was visiting from her new home in Israel. We met in 4th grade when her family moved from California and became instant friends: long, lanky, studious girls who enjoyed their co-roles as teacher’s pet. I’ve always regarded Mojan as a better version of myself. Every word she speaks is articulate and thoughtful, while I stutter and laugh nervously, my eyes lolling around the room trying to find the right thing to say. She’s profoundly genuine and graceful. If I didn’t pass gas, slouch, or make fun of people so much, I imagine I’d be more like Mojan (alas, I’m not willing to make this compromise – or maybe I’m just not capable).
It had been over a decade since I’d seen Mojan. In that time she lived in various places around the world, got married and had two beautiful boys. But she hadn’t changed. Not really. When I hugged her I got a handful of her thick, curly hair – the kind of hair that could dry up a fountain like a super-sized chamois – and it transformed me back to a happily naive, pig-tailed ten-year-old with teeth too big for my head. We had traveled so much distance in twelve years and yet there we were, standing in a place we never really left.
These earliest friends paved the way for my most cherished friendships that I fostered as a teenager. Today, my three best friends are present in my life in spite of being thousands of miles away. They are the kind of friends you call 24-hours after you have your first baby and say, “I can’t do this,” and ten hours later, they’ve traveled 3,000 miles to come to my rescue. They’ve seen my ugly square-mouth cry. They’ve looked me in the eye and said, “I love you. And you’re being stupid.” And they’ve been right every time.
At 34, I’m not really looking for friends, yet I keep meeting women who challenge and inspire me; perhaps they are tomorrow’s “forever friends.” I credit those earliest friendships with all the subsequent lasting ones. Because when I’m with my oldest and bestest friends, I’m reunited with my best self. Sure, we change houses, jobs and cities. We marry, maybe divorce and have children. But my childhood friends remind me that we don’t really change as much as we’d like to think. And maybe that’s okay.