Such a weird thing when you bump into someone you haven’t seen or heard from in nearly forty years. Now I’m sounding all nostalgic but really that’s kind of proof I am getting quite old. This wasn’t a physical bump, but out of the blue last week I received an online friend request from a name I didn’t recognise. After a little explanation I realised she was a friend of my Mum’s and her son was actually my friend. Technically then he would be my oldest friend although up until then I knew nothing about his life.
In the past couple of days, thanks to the wonders of instant communication I have got to know a few more details about him and it has got me a thinkin’ and a reminiscin’. My family left England to emigrate to South Africa just a few months after I turned eight years old. I can recall maybe one or two of my friends up until that age and I’m not really even sure of the name of one of them. Maybe it’s because I don’t have any photographs from then. Also, on average we had moved house almost once a year since I was born. I do remember five of the houses – even now, strangely enough, I would be able to address letters to three of them. By the end of my primary schooling I had been to four different schools that I can remember and then went on to two different secondary schools. I suppose that’s not too unusual if you have a parent who has is constantly being reposted in their work. I acknowledge I envy those who can say they have had so-an-so as their friend since the age of six.
If I look at my little girls who are about the age I was when we moved overseas it’s hard to imagine that they could forget all the sweet little friends they have, they have become so fond of one another they are more are like sisters. I think that’s helped by the plethora of sleep-overs largely due to the fact that their mums are also my close friends. It will be different for them looking back as we have not moved in their lifetime and I have had enough time in one place to build my own firm friendships.
Now if people give me that deer-in-the headlights expression that normally accompanies the words ‘Oh it’s definitely a bad parenting plan to move house or schools too often when the kids are young’ I like to cheer them up by recounting some of the positives that it had been for me! One of the biggest I think is that I had to learn to go out and make new friends. Not cool when you are a teenager, in fact it’s profoundly horrible. So, to my parents,
thanks A LOT, THANKS a lot, I genuinely am grateful now, in hindsight.
A few years ago a man called Alex Williams wrote an article in the New York Times about making friends after the age of thirty. He discusses anecdotes and research that shows how difficult it can be for people at that age (or ‘middle age’ as another writer puts it – so I’m definitely middle aged) to make new friends. I was just past thirty when we moved here and now I’d have to say the friends I’ve made since then are some of the most amazing and wonderful people I know. I love how I have a range of fabulous friends from infants to folk in their eighties. And I am amazed. How is it that out of all the people in the world that I got to be the lucky one? My friends are definitely the bestest! And the reason for this I know is that I have chosen to be part of a loving, caring community that spans the generations and who have a genuine concern for one another’s well being.
So now I’m a little bit chuffed to announce I have an actual ‘old friend’ too. Although I know hardly anything about him, I’ve known him the longest and I’m looking forward to catching up on the interim news. And I’m not actually old, even though I have a few grey hairs and ‘smile lines’ now, on the inside I don’t feel any different to how I felt when I was in my twenties. I’m not sure anybody does really.
Old friends, book ends, park benches etc etc. Simon and Garfunkel.