The gift of time, captured in a friend

by Kristin on March 1, 2010

in Love, family & community

Image by ali edwards

My husband has officially landed on the best birthday gift idea ever. He gave me the gift of free time—do-nothing-but-exactly-what-I-feel-like time.

Of course, technically I could have that kind of me time whenever I want. I could block off a Saturday and decide not to do a lick of work. Jason would be happy to hold down the fort at home. The problem is, that would probably never happen, because I would never make it happen on my own. I might take a few hours off and sit in a cafe to read a book or something, but then I would end up back at home, thinking about the piles of mail I need to sort through and the laundry that needs to be done. I would never be able to devote a whole day, let alone a whole weekend, to me.

So how did Jason make it happen? He invited Jen to come visit for the weekend. It was genius.

Jen and I spent the summer of 1990 living together in a big house on the Jersey shore, with a dozen or so other college kids. (I wrote about our friendship and reconnection here.) When Jason began planning my birthday-weekend party (yes, the big four-oh is tomorrow), he got it in his head that he should invite Jen. She got it in her head that she should make the nine hour drive from Tulsa. That alone makes me feel loved beyond belief—by both Jen and Jason.

Conversation takes time

With Jen here for the weekend, my only responsibility was to spend time with her. After she drove that far to see me, I would certainly feel guilty doing anything else! (Yes, I have a problem with guilt. I’m working through it every day.)

For most of Jen’s visit, we ate and talked. That was the other part of Jason’s genius—he not only knows I love and miss Jen, he knew I needed nothing more than a close friend to talk to.

Jason cooked us a fabulous dinner, while we talked. The three of us sat at the table for a couple of hours and talked. At about 1 am we took a break to get some sleep. Then we got up and talked some more, while Jason made us a yummy breakfast. Then Jen and I went to a cafe and talked, we did some shopping and talked, we ended up back at the house and talked, until it was time to get ready for my party. There, the circle of conversation expanded to more people I love (and stretched into the early hours of morning).

Make new friends, but keep the old

After Jen left on Sunday morning, for her long drive home, I started thinking about our friendship. I especially pondered the different between well-seasoned friendships and new ones. Jason gave me the gift of time through Jen, and Jen also gives me a different gift of time—one that is all about perspective.

That’s what our “old” friends do, after all. Spending time with a friend who knew me 20 years ago helps me step back and see the big picture. It reminds me that I’m still the same person, even though so much has happened in my life, and I’ve changed in so many ways. I often feel so distant from that person I was then, like she’s a stranger, and I simply wasn’t being me. But if Jen and I can go ten years without being in contact, and then instantly love all of the same things about each other that made us friends in the first place, that says something. I was me then, just as she was Jen.

Sure, we have learned and changed and grown over the years, and become enriched in the process, but that’s what growing older is all about, right? By spending time with Jen, I was able to admire a gorgeous vision of that journey into adulthood. I can’t think of a better way to truly celebrate turning forty.

Thank you, Jason. Thank you, Jen.

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  • suzi w.

    This sort of happened to me by surprise last weekend–my parents said what if we came for a few days? I stayed with them at the B&B. I read, watched the Olympics, my mom and I went to the movies. I had conversations that I wouldn’t have had over the phone, silly ones and serious (um, did you know this about the car you bought me?). I still went to my dr. appt, still went to my Artist’s Way class, but it was a staycation, a trip to a place where spending time with people was the most important thing. Glad your Jason and Jen conspired for you–and glad my parents conspired for me.


  • Jeb

    Sometimes that journey through young adulthood has a tendency to cause us to jettison things from our earlier days. In our rush to become someone/thing, to get on with life as adults, we disconnect with the things and, sometimes, the people that walked that path with us. It’s a shame, though, because we don’t, at that time, have the experience…the perspective… to recognize the importance of our history.

    And that’s something a new friend can never offer. So many things that never have to be discussed, but merely are part of our experience with those we’ve known for so long. The longer we’ve known someone, the greater our connection, as the things we’ve shared together become the majority. Soon, despite our differences, we’re more alike than ever.

  • Jennifer

    Dear dear friend. I am still percolating through many of the issues we got to chew on this weekend. It was a delight and a joy to join you, to celebrate you. You are definitely worth it! Here are the first few of my many thoughts:

  • Joy

    How beautiful–time with a “well seasoned friend”. I love that! I love that your husband is thoughtful enough to arrange it. And Happy Birthday–may this year be full of all of the things you’d like to be in it plus lots of peace, love, and happiness:)

  • Dave Thurston

    You and Theodor Geisel on the same day – Most Excellent.

    Oh the gift of true conversation (not just two people talking) is the best! And having two people in your life that conspire to make that happen – better than best! Cudos to J and J. Happy BDay to K.

  • Kristin T.

    suzi w, I’m so glad you got a “forced” staycation. Sometimes I think that’s the only way to do it—to have someone who loves you conspire to make it happen.

    Jeb, your observations about young adulthood and friendship are spot on. I absolutely didn’t realize the importance of the history that was being created that long-ago summer when I first met Jen. (And I’m so glad I have the chance to slow down and ponder it all now.)

    Jennifer, I love the post you wrote. You capture everything so beautifully—your love for words (writing and conversation) is without a doubt one of the things I love most about you. It ties us together.

    Joy, the “well-seasoned” friend phrase came out of my struggle to find a better way to describe that “old friend” concept. I kept introducing Jen to people as “my old friend,” and we laughed about how wrong that sounds. I’m glad I was compelled to think of a better term. Thank you for the kind birthday wishes!

    Dave, yes, sharing a birthday with Dr. Seuss is a delight and an honor. And cudos to J and J, most definitely. It’s hard to imagine being more understood and more loved.

  • Delighted Scribbler

    @Jeb: I know what you mean about the shared experience creating that instant understanding. I love that!

    @Kristin: Happy belated birthday! It’s comforting and delicious to be around someone who knows who you were, who you are, and how you got here. Friends with a long history are like time capsules or diaries. There are people in my life that have helped save memories –little moments and rather big ones– that I would have lost without them there to remember and reminisce with me.