Friends for Life or Just for Now?

On the eve of the February full moon, I was about to get into bed when my eye was drawn to the bookcase I have recently moved into my bedroom – due to a damp issue in the conservatory. This bookcase is filled with photo albums and scrapbooks of the places I have been and the things I have done in my life. I reached out and pulled an album at random from the shelves, my subconscious deciding eleven thirty at night a fitting time to reminisce.

As I turned the pages, my eyes were filled with images taken two decades ago, of my best friend Pam’s wedding – at which I was a bridesmaid in bottle green, the birth of her two sons – one of whom I am Godmother to, and my hen do for my short-lived marriage. These images sent me to an album of photos that mark the best holiday I have ever had (and Pam’s too, as it turns out) when me, Pam, and another friend embarked on a month-long tour of the east of the USA and parts of Canada.

The bottle-green bridesmaid, June 1999 (my feet were sore!)

The memories made me think about Pam and how close we once were, and it made me sad for whatever forced us apart. I made a promise there and then to contact Pam the next day, to see if she fancied catching up. I did, and she did.

My hen do in Manchester, September 2002.

The following night, Pam and I settled in for a lengthy phone conversation, catching up on the two decades of each other’s lives that we’ve missed, and vowing to make damn sure we miss no more. When I asked her if we’d fallen out (as I couldn’t for the life of me remember) she laughed and said, ‘No way!’; life simply got in the way as we chose to walk along different paths.

I should add at this point that the day of the actual full moon (after my photo album splurge, but before my call with Pam), I watched my usual full moon update on YouTube, only to learn the February full moon was in Virgo and sitting in the middle of my 7th house, which is all about relationships with others and sociability. Were mystical forces at work, therefore, the previous evening as my subconscious directed me to a particular album of whose contents I had no recollection until I opened its cover?

The subject of friendship has been on my mind a lot during lockdown, as I have found people I believed to be close friends fall by the wayside or become more distant, while others have come to play a bigger role in my life. The pandemic has affected us all differently, and for me has caused me to reassess who and what is important – friends being a huge part of this.

Friendships change over time. The fierce and loyal friendships of childhood often give way to the more casual ones we experience in our adult lives. Depending on where your life has taken you, few people can claim to still share the same bond with the childhood friend they once had to be prised apart from.

Recently I watched Firefly Lane on Netflix, a series (and book) which tells of a friendship fostered in childhood and enduring through good times and bad, through betrayal and misfortune, until some still unknown event drove them apart.

The show brought to mind my childhood friend Samantha – or Sami as she preferred to be called – whom I met not long after my family moved into the home my parents still live in. I remember being outside in the driveway when she walked up to the gates with a boy in tow (another friendship, and a whole other story!), and they stopped to say hello. We were 3 or 4 years’ old – remember, this was the 70s! Sami and I became the best of friends, spending every waking moment together throughout primary school and high school. Am I still in touch with her now? Sadly, no. So, what drove us apart? Life, what else? Plus, there was a little disagreement in that I grew tired of only seeing her when she wanted me to cover for her, as she disappeared off to do something she wasn’t supposed to. Or that is the limit of my recollection, anyway. I have tried and failed to find her since, so, Sami, if by some miracle you are reading this, please get in touch!

Me and Sami in the early 80s

For girls who had shared so much, it was a sad ending. We were so close that my first proper boyfriend was the best friend of her boyfriend, and when they split up, I was obliged to end my relationship. I was heartbroken, but my friendship with Sami was more important than my relationship with a boy – we were 14. Things turned sour after this as we fell in with the wrong crowd, but that’s a whole other story!

I was lucky enough to get a second chance at a close friendship when I met Pam. I was in my early 20s by this point and had quit my banking job to go to university full time to finish the degree I’d started at night school (I got a 1st Class Honours degree, in case you’re interested!). I don’t remember the exact moment we met, but I know it was during a “Women in Management” lecture (or some other class beginning “Women in…”) – this was the 90s. Soon we could be found breakfasting each morning in our booth in the canteen, eating toasted teacakes and drinking mugs of tea, sharing breaks, lunchtimes, and getting together out of university – Pam’s boyfriend, now husband, was very tolerant. Pam and I were so alike my mum often commented we were more like sisters than friends.

Pam and I shared many life-changing events – deaths, graduations, marriages, births – and it was the life-changing events all adults face that took us down different paths until we eventually lost touch… until now.

As my friendship with Pam faded, another – unexpected – friendship began – this time with a man. John remains to this day my oldest (in length of time not age – as I hold that baton!) friend, and we share a special bond that I have had with no one else in my life. Despite him now living on the other side of the world, our friendship endures, and it was John whom I chose to share my big 50th birthday holiday with (or I will, when we can travel again!). John and I know each other inside out, which is rare for a friendship forged in adulthood, and I know, no matter where life takes us, we will always be there for each other.

Friendships change once we enter the murky world of adulthood, or this is my experience, anyway. Gone are the times of inseparability and whispered secrets, replaced with hastily arranged meals and welcome glasses of red. Not that these friendships are any less valuable than those of our childhood, they are simply different. My circle of friends, all nurtured since I settled in Wales, holds a very special place in my heart, and I hope they will always be part of my life.

But I am a realist and have been around long enough to understand the transient nature of adult friendships. Once your situation changes – be it a move, a job, a relationship, a club, or a class – often your circle of friends changes too. I know this because it has happened to me on many occasions as I am one of life’s roamers (Thursday’s child). Some friends I have lost because of something I did or didn’t do, and those stung until I remembered an old saying I’d read about friendship: There are three types of friendship – friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime.

It has taken me a long time to realise that losing touch with, or simply losing, friends, is not a reflection on me, but more that those friends have done what they came into my life to do and have now moved on.

For those who are meant to stay, no amount of time or distance will ever break the special bond between us, because true friendship does last a lifetime.

The Cat’s Meow, New Orleans, July 1996.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me about your longest friendships. Are you still in touch with your childhood friend? If so, have you both moved away or are you still living in the same place? Whatever your friendship stories, get in touch and tell me; I can’t wait to read them!

’Til next time