Old friendships in new lives

by Kristin on September 22, 2008

in Love, family & community

Jason and I have been in the LA area for the past few days. People back in Illinois, I’ve noticed, have a way of automatically wrinkling up their noses when you mention LA. I get why it has a bad rap, but I find it a bit odd that anyone who lives in East Central Illinois could find anything disparaging to say about spending a few days in Southern California. Great restaurants and culture, sunshine without humidity, mountains, the ocean. I’m not complaining.

But we didn’t come here for any of that, anyway. We came to honor a combined 33 years of friendships—Jason’s 20-year friendship with his friend John, who has lived in Pasadena for the last decade, and my 13-year friendship with Aaron and Becca, who just moved to the LA area last month.

When I met Aaron and Becca, I was living in St. Louis, was married to someone else, and none of us had kids. It feels like another lifetime, with a completely different set of characters. But there we were two days ago, sitting together on their patio in Southern California, talking and drinking beer with mountains as our backdrop. Not only do I have a different husband than I did in 1995, but now we have six kids between our two families. Aaron and Becca’s oldest child (born the same year as my oldest) is gangly and pre-teen-like now in his slouchy movements and heavy feet clomping on the stairs. We’ve done a lot of moving since we met, too: I moved from St. Louis to Grand Rapids to Urbana; they recently pulled up deep roots in St. Louis and moved to California.

Somehow, when I’m with Becca, if I don’t think about it too hard, it’s like we’ve been transported to 1995. Then I catch glimpses of our lives now, in my peripheral vision, and am surprised. So much has changed, and yet Becca and I connect like we always have, talking about everything we can think of, packing in months of catching up into a handful of fleeting hours.

Besides the fact that I simply love spending time with her, there is something consistent and comforting about our friendship. It endures. She is a touchstone for who I was then, and a bridge connecting me to who I am now, regardless of all the stuff that has happened along the way.

Old friendships fascinate me. They are like glimpses into a past life, and someone we used to be. But they are also clues to who we really are—who we’ve always been, at our cores.

That’s what I loved most about meeting Jason’s childhood friend John for the first time last week. I was able to see character snapshots of the 13-year-old Jason, and find the threads that are woven into who he is now. Sure, as a teen he was confused about plenty and still trying to figure out who he was. But there is something fundamental in him, and in John, that was very much present even back then. The underlying parts of Jason that make him Jason—a quick sense of humor, a love for adventure, a deep kindness—are also in John, making it clear to me why they became friends (even if they had no way to articulate it then).

Halfway through our California visit, as we were shifting from visiting John and Kim to visiting Aaron and Becca, we arranged for everyone to come together for dinner. John picked a great restaurant—a Thai place that you entered as if you were entering an indoor space, only to find that the high walls reached up to a ceiling that was open to the sky. It was a gorgeous setting, with candles flickering on all of the white-clothed tables, and there was something unexpectedly moving about bringing together these previously disconnected parts of our past. If a wedding is a symbol of taking what was two and making it one, then this meal we shared was a small wedding moment—joining together two people, two pasts, two families and communities, into a single, whole present.

(btw, this is where the photo depicting our dinner together would go if our camera wasn’t broken. immensely maddening!)

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  • Becca

    Wow, beautifully written and so nice to have a “snapshot” in language of the weekend and our friendship. Thank you!