“Make new friends,
But keep the old…
One is silver,
And the other, gold.”
We used to sing this in my Girl Scout troop, along with such other classics as “Rise Up O Flame,” and “Fires Burning,” all of which were sung as rounds, around the campfire. My mother was our leader and she loved music and singing, so we were always doing things like this in our troop.
The funny thing is, I still know all the words to those three songs. And I’ve always felt particularly attached to the “Make new friends” song, because it is so true.
I’m the kind of person who never gives up on a friendship. If I lose touch with someone it’s because the other person didn’t write back, or stopped sending the holiday cards, not because I did.
I have friends from every stage of my life who are still part of my life now. I have a friend from 8th grade, three from high school, and three from college. I am still in touch via e-mail or cards with all of them, and still see two of the high school friends and all three college friends in person on a fairly regular, if infrequent, basis.
But I had one friend from my years after college whom I had lost touch with over five years ago. And she wasn’t just any friend – she was the friend who introduced me to my husband. In fact, they were friends first, so we go back a long way with her.
DH and I had stayed close with our friend throughout her short first marriage, and well into her second. We are the godparents of her son.
But after about twenty years of friendship, we somehow drifted apart, and suddenly the time had gone by and we hadn’t seen each other, or our godson, for way too long for it to be resolved by a casual phone call…it had become one of those awkward things.
The thoughts went through my mind, “Is she mad at me? Did I do something to offend her? Does she just think we’re boring?” And I eventually did give up on her after e-mails weren’t answered and holiday cards weren’t reciprocated.
But it weighed on me. She had been so much a part of our lives for so long, that it was very strange not to be in touch with her and her family anymore.
Then something happened to give us the opportunity to rekindle the friendship. Our godson became best friends with the son of our friend who lives down the street from us. They happen to be the same age and were involved in activities together, and became fast friends.
Star Trek advanced a theory in one of their best episodes, “The City On the Edge of Forever,” that time has a shape and direction to it. As Spock said, “There is a theory…There could be some logic to the belief that time is fluid, like a river-- with currents, eddies, backwash.” In the episode, because of the “currents in time,” Spock and Kirk are able to go back in time to find Dr. McCoy, who had ended up on 20th Century Earth through a time portal and had changed history.
I have seen so many examples of this happening in real life that I can’t help but think there is something to it. Currents in time somehow got our neighbor’s son together with our godson, and gave us the opening to renew our friendship with his parents. We started seeing our godson fairly often since he was hanging out on our street with our neighbor and her son. He is now a young man of 14, several years older than we had last seen him. I figured sooner or later we would see his parents again.
And, finally, this past weekend, we were both down the street at our other friend’s house and our godson was there and his mom was coming to pick him up. So we lay in wait until her car arrived and then we came out to see her. She and her mother were in the car and I hugged her, and it was as if no time had passed (although DH and I are both a lot grayer than five years ago!). The ice was broken and now we plan to get together.
Our friend is like a vortex in that river of time – without her, DH and I would never have met; and as a result, two other friends of ours would never have met THEIR husbands, one of whom is my husband’s best friend. An awful lot of people’s lives would have changed if we’d never known her.
There is a lot of value in keeping friends from our past. It is more than just the camaraderie and joy of the friendship itself. As you get older, fewer and fewer people are left who remember who you were many years ago. Our grandparents pass on, our parents pass on. Eventually our friends and our siblings are the only ones left who can remember who we were, way back when.
There is a song called “The Dutchman” that expresses this idea eloquently:
Long ago I used to be a young man,
And dear Margaret remembers that for me
Without our friends, who would still remember that we were young once? And be able to reminisce with us about those days?
I’m glad that I have another chance to have my friend back. We may be different now than we were 25 years ago; we may not have all the same interests or priorities in life. But we know who we are and where we came from, and we remember the laughter, the tears, and the experiences we shared. And now we can continue to share new experiences as our friendship moves into yet another phase in our lives.
DH has reminded me that I should give credit to author Harlan Ellison for writing the original "City on the Edge of Forever" Star Trek episode.