Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A sweet thing, friendship.....

Growing up as a Navy brat was tough on me. It's pretty sad when the longest you've lived anywhere is when you go off to a four-year stint at college.

The remnants of my early life are evident today in the fact that I haven't moved in over 20 years, and that my daughter grew up in the same house her entire life. I can even still see the marks on the tree out front where she nailed boards to its trunk so she could climb as high as possible. I love those marks dearly.

The biggest drawback, however, is this:  Friendships don't survive the nomad lifestyle. At least they didn't for me, and I think most military kids would agree. And it wasn't for lack of trying on my part. I wrote letters to friends I had to leave behind from one duty station to the other. At first, they would write back to me, updating me on all the gossip among our group, and I'd lament the new Navy base I had been banished to once again.

But over time, the return letters would stop and I would still be struggling to make new friends, me the shy kid with glasses and the hated designation of "the new girl." Always the "new girl." 

Somewhere along the way I made a decision that the whole thing was just too painful. My solution? Don't make friends at all. That way, I didn't have to leave them. I didn't have to try to keep in touch with them when I moved on, which I always did. The quiet "new girl" became the kid who never spoke at all. Lonely and mute.

That experience taught me that a friendship is a rare gem to be protected at all costs today. I have often joked that once you are on one of my email distribution lists, you are there forever. I don't let go of people easily any more, sometimes to my own detriment, but I believe friendships need to be nurtured and safeguarded.

Nurturing means things like getting together to catch up frequently, even if it's via phone or email. To share good news and bad, to talk and to share, to advise when asked. To offer encouragement and support. Sometimes just to listen. You can't ignore friends and expect them to hang around very long.

I envy my friends who maintain ties with people they have known since elementary school. They get together and reminisce, look at pictures, laugh and gossip. The fact that they even remember each others' names is amazing to me. I would love to have ties that reach so far and hold so tight.

Today I know all of this. And if you're my friend, I think you know how much I value you.

But my reality growing up was different, and I have learned much from it. I just wish all those lessons didn't have such sharp edges.

Without friends no one would choose to live,
though he had all other goods.
- Artistotle

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