Yesterday, I met up with someone that I haven’t really had any contact with for nearly 30 years. As I had breakfast with my family and we made plans for the day ahead, I told my children where I was going. The younger two didn’t bat an eyelid. But the elder two were interested and slightly worried for me. “Are you nervous? What if you don’t get on? Will it be awkward? What will you talk about?”
These were all valid and intelligent questions about issues that I might have worried about at one time. They, with their young heads, are just starting to feel their way tentatively around the minefield that is social interaction. I am old and experienced and have enough social weaponry in my armoury to get me through most awkward situations.
But of course I didn’t share their concerns in this case. Yes, it had been a huge number of years since I had seen my friend but I knew that we still had plenty in common to see us through a day of conversation. In fact, and rather strangely, I think we have more in common now than we did then.
Back in the day, she was my best friend’s older sister. She flitted in and out of my life, usually around when I was at their house but never really spending any time with us. She was sharp and funny and pretty and I was slightly in awe of her in the way that teenage girls can be of someone who is that little bit further on in the complicated process of growing up.
Then I moved house and for a few years my friendship and consequently the connection with the family stayed strong in spite of the miles between us. My friend and I visited each other, went on holiday together, wrote endless letters and spoke on the phone. My connection with her sister was reduced to learning big pieces of news only.
And then work, marriages, children all took over our lives and my relationship with my friend dwindled to Christmas cards only. Ever pragmatic and seeing the obvious difficulties of keeping every relationship alive with their former vigour, I let it go.
But then a year ago, the big sister popped up on my facebook page and we began to tentatively strike up a friendship. We discovered that over the years our lives had taken similar paths. Both lawyers, both with daughters, both a dab hand with a Kitchen Aid. It is hard to develop a relationship through two line comments but it seemed to happen with ease. The obvious next step was to meet which we did yesterday.
I had a great day. There was no reason why it should be tricky. We had thirty years of news to share and that alone could have taken the whole day. But also we seemed to have found the embryonic beginnings of a friendship in its own right. We discussed feeling slightly disloyal about meeting without her sister, who was the reason that we had ever crossed each other’s paths. But it felt to me as if each of them will play a different role in my life. Her sister was my closest friend in those important teenage years, the one with whom I grew up and shared all my new experiences. Now that we are adults, it is the elder sister with whom I seem to have things in common.
I would dearly love to see my first friend again and hope that some day I will but I will also enjoy nurturing this new friendship because that is how life turns out sometimes. When I got home, my girls asked again. “How was it? Was it awkward?”
“No,” I replied. “It was lovely.”