Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.
New-made friendships, like new wine,
Age will mellow and refine.
Friendships that have stood the test-
Time and change-are surely best;
Brow may wrinkle, hair grow gray;
Friendship never knows decay.
For ‘mid old friends, tried and true,
Once more we our youth renew. -Author Unknown
A visit with an old friend we haven’t seen in a while is like sunshine on a rainy day…like feasting after famine…like a dip in the pool after hot, sweaty yard work. Is there anything better?
As I’m meditating on the few days of my friend Lynette’s recent visit, I’d put it close to the top of my list of favorite things. We celebrated her new, serious love interest, her ongoing health after a tough fight with late-stage breast cancer in 2007, and the fact that our friendship has survived, even thrived, through the tough times.
When our thirty-year friendship began, we held each other’s hands through birthing babies, career moves, and church splits. We endured multiple crises together, including single parenting, new marriages that ended in abrupt divorces, and everything in between. Life stuff. Real stuff. From the ridiculous to the sublime; from shattered brokenness to optimistic hope, we supported each other.
Now comes a kinder, gentler season. A surprising and welcome season where we don’t stress if we’re five pounds heavier or can’t find the perfect outfit; or gasp in disgust at our increasingly lax muscle tone. Our conversation has graduated from job- or man-related drama to adult children and planting things, or a particular wine we’ve discovered. We’re glad to have made it this far, and thrilled to be together. What horrified us twenty years ago doesn’t even cause a ripple nowadays, for we have become sassy, seasoned women, and carry the flag of survivorship proudly.
I thought about all of this as we were bobbing on boogie boards in the ocean, giggling our heads off. I’d talked her into wading waist-deep into the (somewhat chilly) April water temps of my beloved Hilton Head Island’s waters, and then talked her into floating on a boogie board (which is all I do with them now since one nearly broke a couple of ribs when I tried to bodysurf with it). Off we went, she tentatively clutching the board, me yelling “Woo-hoo” at the top of my lungs and rushing the waves. When she got her boogie-board-float groove down, she began to relax and enjoy. “Kerry Louise,” (her pet name for me) she yelled over the screeches of seagulls and roar of surf, “do you back into the waves or do you head in, face-first?”
I thought about that a minute. Never had I taken a single second to catalogue boogie-board-floating techniques. After a wave smacked me from behind and I went rolling, ingesting several mouthfuls of saltwater, I gasped that face-first was probably best. We giggled ourselves hoarse, and yelled and pointed repeatedly “Here comes a good one!” Every time a new wave rolled in, we gripped our boards and launched ourselves face-first into the curl of each one, enjoying the childlikeness of it all, easing into our new, less defensive friend-roles, more chill about about who we are now, and more focused on the importance of enjoying every moment.
A longtime friendship mimics life – the ups and downs, the offenses that threaten to derail it, the maturity that comes through pain. No matter how ruptured the connection, or how far apart we are from one another geographically, the connection is persistent and important and strong. It is not an option to give it up, and she, like me, is a fighter. We’ve fought together, grieved together, and survived.
I don’t think we’ve ever been quite that silly before. An image forms in my mind – an angry, red flag, flapping wildly in 60mph winds; then the winds calm, and the red of the flag morphs into the azure of the sea, assuring peaceful passage.
The past few days, we raced toward the peace face-first, giggling like six-year-olds.