Wednesday, December 26, 2018


Sometimes I think filling your days with family care and pursuing friendships is like managing a career and a houseful of little kids all at the same time. You feel you're never giving enough of yourself to either. For me at least, over time, the more casual contacts with friends -- the ones that demand a steady trickle of meetups or coffees or conversations -- diminish.

I've patted myself on the back for keeping up with my Warsaw gang when I am there, and with my law school buds when they travel here, but I've been so focused on my grandbabes on a daily basis that I hadn't noticed how little time I spend on feeding my more social side. Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing. I prefer a small handful of great friends than three handfuls of a mix.

Still, in recent weeks, I've been thinking about the people whom I have neglected (and who, in turn, have neglected me right back: friendships only work if both parties are engaged). For the couple that live in Madison, the fix is easy: call 'em up and set a coffee or wine date!

But there's been one friend whose disappearance from my radar screen I've been suffering a long long time. I don't know how it happened, but after decades of superb, top notch friendship, things just sort of shut down. Oh, people grow apart. I had a best friend in grade school, another in high school -- I have a mild curiosity about where they are and what they're doing in their advanced years, but not enough to ever want to resurrect communications. We probably have nothing in common except grade school and high school (respectively). So what's the point...

My American college friend, on the other hand -- she was special. The chemistry was remarkable: she could once buoy my spirits so fast that I'd be laughing hard two minutes into our conversation. What happened to us?

Just before the holidays I decided to tentatively reach out. [Then, today, I read an article in the NYT about rekindling lost friendships (honestly, what coincidence!) and I recoiled: the warning was clear: lower your expectations! What was once there could be gone for good. Go easy. OMG! What have I unleashed??]

Still, my college friend responded. We set a time to talk on the phone. Today. (She lives half a country away from me.)  So perfect: my grandkids are elsewhere visiting with other family members. The farmhouse is neat and tidy, the laundry machine is working overtime on table linens and dish towels. And so today, I will focus on my friend.

But first, there are some lovely farmette surprises: Ed is up before me and he calls down -- you have to see the mist! Such pretty colors in the sky!

I'm out with my camera. The construction to our east has given us a less harmonious landscape and so I rarely come out and look this way, but it turns out that on a winter morning, the views can be both gentle and sublime.

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The sun comes up to the southeast, the moon goes down today to the west. (The moon's setting place changes both by season and by the moon phase: when, as today, it's winter, and the moon is in the third quarter, it will be setting due west.)   Sort of the story of life, no? Cyclical, ebbing, flowing, ebbing, repeat performances, but each one infused with something new and remarkable.

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Breakfast with Ed. Today, I do a timed release of the both of us.

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And now my attention shifts back to my friend (who does not read Ocean and so I am as much a mystery to her now as she is to me).

(The cheepers still often move in two packs of three: the young girls feel safest in each others company. The older ones nearly always stick together. And then there are the times when all six walk together, as if forever bonded.)

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I pick up the phone and call. And we talk. I could say that it is like old times. This would not be incorrect: she triggers a laugh in me instantly. And constantly.

But of course, things have changed. When did we last spend time together in person or on the phone? Fifteen years back? Twenty?

The beauty of getting older is that in your conversations, you never have to get stuck in deconstructing the present: you can float back, think about what's next, come around to the present and then leave it again. If you're a good listener, if you're honest, if you're able to show affection for all that you shared and probably still share, well then, you're in for a fine set of hours, even though so much time has passed...

I do admit it:  we had ourselves a very fine set of hours!

Toward evening, Ed goes out for a walk. I'm re-resting the poor discombobulated knee that never quite recovered from Paris, only to be thrown into the tumult of Christmas.

A storm is coming. If we lived further north, we'd get a mountain of snow. As it is, we'll be getting buckets of rain. Our white Christmas is a thing of the past. Tomorrow, I'll take down the tree and tuck away the few ornaments for next year. The lights, of course, stay with us winter, spring, summer and fall.