A couple of decades ago, I received a letter in the mail (gasp!) from one of my three closest college friends. The gist of her message: Our friendship mattered and jobs, miles, husbands, children and new friends shouldn’t alter that. Apparently, she and the other two friends had stayed in closer touch. “We love you, Ash,” she wrote. “Come back.”
I crumpled and, uncharacteristically, I cried.
I had a great job as a reporter and enjoyable new friends – in short, an interesting life. But because I had moved every few years growing up, I thought friends graced your life for a while rather than forever. I booked a flight to Phoenix to spend time with my letter-writing friend and her darling family and later that year, made time to see the other two friends.
That simple note shifted my view of friendship. Since that day, I HAVE stayed in touch. The four of us try to get together every year or two for a long weekend. Sometimes, it takes longer. Living thousands of miles apart, occasionally, one of us can’t make it. When our eldest joined the world (in Hawaii) weighing less than two pounds, the girls visited New York City without me. But we talked by phone and they sent an “I Love NY” onesie for our tiny guy. Another time, we decided three of the four would have to suffice, but the fourth created a last-minute break in her schedule, bought a plane ticket and surprised us all.
In August, I opened an email with the subject line “Girl’s Trip.” The entire message read “How about Nashville this fall?” It had been four years. We all looked at our schedules and determined that only one weekend MIGHT work. We crossed our fingers and booked our flights, a condo, and tickets to the Grand Ole Opry.
A few days before the trip, I sent them an email: “We ALL know that I’m the most likely to be underdressed for any occasion. Since you all aren’t here to pack my suitcase, what will YOU be wearing?” Within minutes, we’d decided that jeans were perfect. That simple was better.
When my flight touched down hours after the other three, I texted the girls. Instead of doing something fun, they had found chairs at an airport coffee shop and waited for me. And… honoring my only request, they reminisced and talked about little stuff, but waited until we all could be together to talk about anything important.
Our lives are different. Three of us have kids ranging in age from four to eighteen. Our jobs vary from heading a major medical organization to stay-at-home mom. But we know each other’s history. And we love each other. We always come back.
If you are blessed with friends like this, hold onto them. Who else would decide that sitting in a hotel room is preferable to sightseeing in San Francisco when you have morning sickness at 7 p.m.? Who else not only would laugh at your bed head, but also point out that you resemble the villain on “The Incredibles” (and bring up an image on her smart phone to verify)? And who else would respect, that for you, a glass of Pinot Grigio at 4:42 p.m. unfailingly rules out any other type of drink that evening?
If a friend like this starts to slip away, email or call. Write a letter, put a stamp on it and drop it in your mailbox. She’ll thank you for it.
Have you kept in touch with special girlfriends and, if so, how do you celebrate your friendship?