A celebration of friendship

I’ve mentioned many times how much I value the friendships I have. Some people say that ‘friends are few and acquaintances many’ suggesting that quality is more important than quantity. Well, of course that’s true, but I’m not precious about the term ‘friend’ and I’m happy to make less of a distinction. Of course there are friends who are closer than others – that’s only natural, but I think we benefit in different ways from the strengths within different kinds of friendships. In some cases …..  “They’re the few people who accept silence over conversation. You don’t feel the need to second guess thoughts or measure words”  (Kayla Rae Pich)… and in others seamless chatter is what we need.

There are old friends with whom I can share history – we go back to when we were young mums together, or in a couple of cases even further back to childhood. Reminiscing forms a part of those friendships. Then there are the friends we meet through our working lives. Colleague or work friendships are often transient; friendship flourishes for a while when you have something in common but when that commonality stops being there, the friendship wanes. Nevertheless I have a handful of those friends that I’ve taken along with me as my life has moved on because there’s more to the relationship than just work.  I have many girlfriends, but Husband and I do, of course, also have couples who are friends of both of us, and here the dynamic is different again, equally valued, equally enjoyed.

Yesterday afternoon I enjoyed time spent with J, one of my oldest and dearest friends (I’m sure she would like me to point out that since she is a couple of years younger than me, I mean in friendship terms rather than age).  We have known each other since the early 1960s though became close when our first homes as young marrieds were opposite each other – that’s a lot of history. Over many years we’ve cried together, raged at unfairness together and supported each other through dark times: “Friendship means being there just to be there.  Friendship means listening and not asking questions. Friendship means lending your shoulder for someone to cry on” (Tracy Labauve)

AberdoveyHere’s one of my favourite photos ever – our children on one of our shared family holidays… Yes, we’ve shared many happy times too, and yesterday’s invitation was to share a very happy and special family event in J’s family. Her daughter recently adopted two dear little boys and now that all the legalities have been finalised the family wanted to celebrate. As a teacher, the new mummy is well used to taking the stage in front of an audience, but I cannot imagine that she has ever before made a speech so personal or as touching. I don’t suppose I was the only one to wipe away a tear.

A friendship of a very different kind was celebrated whilst we were away last week. Having met through our shared hobby of blogging, Margaret (I know that many of you also read her blog  http://www.margaretpowling.com/ ) and I have been enjoying a long-distance friendship for the past couple of years. It just so happens that she lives in South Devon, only a few miles from where we stay  on holiday. A couple of years ago our virtual friendship moved into  the real world when we met up whilst I was in the area. Heeding the warnings about online relationships, and in deference to our concerned husbands, we chose a very public cafe for a mid-morning coffee (which lasted well into lunchtime) and found that we have much in common – not least that we can both talk a lot! We’ve been chatting via our blogs and on email ever since, each time revealing a little more of our lives past, our opinions, likes and dislikes.  This year, Margaret came to visit our holiday lodge and the conversation flowed in a similarly verbose manner. Husbands were included this time and all went very well. I know that if we live closer, we’d happily meet up more often. The small community of bloggers (and readers) to which we both belong has opened the way to several new friendships – granted, these are not the conventional kind, but if we can’t see communicating with like minded individuals, sharing the ups and downs of family life as a form of friendship, then I think that’s quite sad. I suppose the thing is,  I like talking to people – I’m interested in what makes them tick!  My husband is always amazed at the things I can find out about someone within just a few minutes of meeting them. I’ll sometimes say, “I made a new friend today.” It may be that I’ll only see them occasionally in the future, but I still value the connection – the friendship.

I see my gym friends more than any others. We don’t need to ‘save it all up’ for an occasional get-together because we are together – a lot! usually twice weekly (more when there’s a birthday lunch to attend), so with them the conversation is more often about the minutiae of daily life though it often strays into the ‘big stuff’ in the news. We don’t necessarily always agree but this doesn’t matter at all. Among friends, it’s ‘safe’ to put across a different point of view. In a couple of weeks I’ll be getting together with the other members of the Ladies’ Dining Group. Two of these I see in between times, the rest only at our LDG lunches – different again.

A study by Harvard University concluded that solid friendships are important to our physical, emotional and mental health. They help us  make better lifestyle choices; they enrich our lives.

Blog posts are a strange animal – some attract lots of readers, other far fewer so you may or may not have seen this when I posted it a while ago. For those who didn’t here is something I found on Facebook. I hope it strikes a chord:

Lunch With Girlfriends by Kathy O’Malley

Elaine’s vertigo has never been worse
Kay can’t recall where she left her purse
Rhonda’s about to replace her knees
Linda’s breathing is tinged with a wheeze

Donna’s left boob has a troublesome lump
Diane’s on her third trip to take a dump
Lorraine’s husband can’t remember a thing
Nine years a widow, Marge still wears her ring

Marlene is dealing with another UTI
Sally’s giving a hearing aid another try
Marie has decided she can’t drive at night
Sharon still wears clothes two sizes too tight

They’ve been through divorces and babies and wakes
They do for each other whatever it takes
They’ve already buried Marcia and Kate
And truthfully, Lizzie’s not looking so great

So whenever they can, they get out to eat
Open bottles of wine and forget their sore feet
There’s laughing and crying and letting down guards
And when the bill comes, there’s ten credit cards

So here’s to the waiters who keep orders straight
And to the places that let lunches run three hours late
And here’s to the girlfriends, those near and those far
Here’s to the girlfriends, you know who you are!!!

And I’ll repeat the sentiment I posted back then : to my own girlfriends who read this blog (and to those who don’t even know how to switch on a computer let alone have ever made friends with a mouse so won’t be reading anyway), thank you for the laughter, support, shoulder to cry on and for just being there. You’re simply the best.

13 comments

  1. Friendship is priceless. My dearest friends knew me when I was just ‘me’. In other words, before I became a teacher, wife, mother. We have been there for each other, every step of the way, not only through divorce and bereavement but also to enjoy the happiest times. A former work colleague, who has become a very dear friend, describes her closest friends as ‘pearls’ which she keeps in a virtual jewel box and ‘takes out’ from time to time. I love the poem and your post.

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  2. Hi Eloise, I enjoy your blog, as a fellow 60 something it often echoes things I know or experience. Today’s post is brilliant and so well worded, thank you. Lyn

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  3. I also value friendship and as we have moved to different areas during our married life I’ve lost touch with school and earlier friends. I have two constant friends, one I haven’t seen in over thirty years, but still look on her as my ‘best’ friend, the other was a work collegue and I haven’t seen her in over ten years when we moved to Wales, but we ring each other up every month or so and she keeps me in touch with others we worked with.
    I still keep in touch with older friendships at Christmas time. It’s difficult for me to make new friends as I am disabled and don’t go out without my husband, so I cherish the friends that I’ve made.

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    • Some friends will remain friends no matter how far apart, or how rarely we see them. It’s indefinable but there’s just something that ‘clicks’. I’m so sorry to hear that you’re not able to get out and meet up with girlfriends. We have just retirn d from Devon – such a lovely county.

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  4. Oh, Eloise, I just loved this post and not because you mentioned our friendship and yes I reiterate what you say, if we lived close we would chatter long and hard more often! Husband is also amazed when I start chatting to people, the people in the supermarket queue, someone I happen to meet in the street, a dog walker when I’ve stopped to admire his or her pooch, and so forth. I talk to everyone because, like you, I’m interested in people. I seem to learn things after a few minutes that husband would never find out in years. Whether this is a good thing or not, I don’t know, but it’s just how I am and, I think, how you are, Eloise.
    I have also friendships going back to school days. My ‘oldest’ friend (in terms of friendship) I met on my first day in school in Devon in September 1951, so that’s rather a long time ago. Apart from my cousin she is the person who perhaps has known me the longest. Then there’s my friend from grammar school days who said to me in a boring double-period physics lesson, “I think you’d like my neighbour, ____” (mentioning my husband’s name.) And my fate was sealed. She became my bridesmaid. Then there are newer friends, a dear woman who lives only about 200 yards from me and whom I met a couple of years ago but we’re on the same wave length and share the same interest in books, collectables and interior design.
    Yes, friendships are really important, the ones from long ago and the ones we have yet to make.
    I would also like to say how very much I like and relate to that poem!And oh, how lovely to see you again and for our husbands to meet this time, too.
    Margaret P

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    • I found physics boring too, but no-one offered me a potential husband! Clearly your friend got it spot-on when she thought that you’d like her neighbour! Old friendships, new friendships, virtual friendships – they all nourish and enrich our lives.

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