There’s always the chance a dormant friendship can re-ignite, but doing so needs a little kindling, a resurrected spark, and someone to breathe life into it.
If I had thought about it at all in my 20s and 30s, I would have said the friendship of the Valianettes—my closest childhood friends—was over. It wasn’t an unpleasant ending, no drama, just life’s transition as we moved into adulthood. First, different colleges, then careers, and husbands and children. The distance grew between us. I didn’t think then about how time had passed and life had parted us.
We had been friends since elementary school, a group since middle school and a named club—the Valianettes—since high school. We went everywhere together. Long before seat belts limited (and protected) the number of people in a car, we would pile into someone’s car, sometimes on each other’s laps, to get to that Friday night party. We always went together. We had to. None of our parents would allow us to go unless a critical mass of the group was going; protection in numbers. There were duos and trios of even closer friendships within the group, but we were all intertwined friends. Then that major rite of passage—high school graduation—occurred, and the bond evaporated. Even for those of us who went to the same college, too many things—the newness of becoming an adult—took us in different directions and it just wasn’t the same. For nearly twenty years, we were apart. No one thought anything of it; we had all moved on.
Then in just one day—with the arrival of my son AJ—my friend Marsha changed all of that. She and AJ were the kindling.
Marsha’s life had taken her to a small girls’ college in Western Virginia—Hollins College—not as a student, but as a staff member. As part of her responsibility, she would periodically bring a group from Roanoke, Virginia to Washington, DC to see the nation’s capital and would call me to get together for lunch. After several times, we realized it was like old times and when I told her my then-husband and I were adopting a baby; she decided to host a shower for baby AJ.
Who would come? Well, the Valianettes, of course. They were the core of the invitation list. That one gathering was so much fun it led to many others. We just needed that spark. First just lunch now and then, then regularly-scheduled lunches, then weekends at someone’s home, then our first trip together — all led now to twenty years of being reconnected after twenty years apart. Last year, we laughed and finished each other’s stories on a beach in Jamaica.
Is our friendship special? I think so. I know no one who is a part of a group that has been together since the first grade. Sometimes I think about the role that segregation played in placing us together in school, early dance classes and in scouting troops, but that wasn’t it. Others have been together in similar circumstances, but that magical connection didn’t happen for them. It wasn’t until we attended one of our high school reunions we realized that others had noticed the strength of our bond. One of our teachers was there and commented on the fact we were together at the gathering. She said, “I knew you would all be together. You were always together.”
As we enter a new year, reminisce, and consider our prospects for the future, we sometimes think of a joyful moment in our history and believe it was just that, the past — something to be remembered with a smile. While singular events may be long ago, whatever led to the joyfulness of that event, the core of that happiness, is still there. It can be brought to life with intentionality and nurturing. So, as I enter 2019 and reflect on what gives meaning to my life, family is paramount, but friends—the family you choose—are a close second.