I hobbled across the street and up a block from my junior high school. I had a full-length leg cast. (Back in the olden days’ casts were plaster and boy howdy were they heavy.) I was back at school after weeks at home. I missed my friends. I was more than happy to hand over saved babysitting money (my portion of some salty, greasy fries) and willing to use those ugly crutches if it would get me where I wanted to be.
The promises of a pile of french fries we all shared and the latest gossip were more than enough of a carrot to get me moving towards the “Herfy’s” fast food joint. I wanted to hang out and fit in. Golly, I wanted so badly to be a part of the “gang”. I wanted to have real grown-up conversations and figure out where we each stood on vital and important topics.
I remember the noise of all of us talking at once. I can recall the sound of laughter. Talking with mouths full, talking over each other, talking…… it was the sound of friendship. Somehow we all felt a bit important. We each had something to share.
Yesterday, while having coffee with a friend we noticed a group of 8 junior high school friends. They each had a coffee drink in front of them. They all sat at a table 4 facing 4. Each had either a cell phone, laptop or a tablet they were individually engrossed in.
They were silent.
Each absorbed in their own world of technology. I wanted to tell them, put down your phones, close your laptops………your friends are right before your very eyes.
I kept my lips sealed, however, my heart cracked a little.
I was very grateful to be sitting with a friend from Kindergarten. Neither of us could actually pinpoint when (at least 35 years ago) we actually last saw each other, face to face. We have reconnected via social media (yes, we are mighty grateful for technology)…. however, we needed to sit and be in the same place.
We both felt an invisible thread tugging at our hearts. I liked seeing her beautiful hair glimmer in the sunshine. I needed to touch her bracelet, smell her perfume and hear her story. My heart raced as I listened to her talk about her husband with respect and love.
We both played the “dance”.
Oh, you know? The dance where you gently slip in little thoughts to see how the other reacts. Religion, politics, television, hobbies, food……polite yet very interested and you actually care if it is all well with her soul. You gingerly talk about the miracle love affair of your life and see where it lands. When I caught a glimpse of a sparkle in her eye, my heart swelled. I knew in a flash she had long been with someone who had loved her and held her heart. During my turn, I could share how Mr. Right is my world and how well I am loved and cared for. I could tell her and not hold back because she was telling me the same story. We were speaking the same love language.
You don’t share sweet secrets like that via technology. You just don’t.
Over the years, of course, we have both been forced to our knees with tragedy. We shared our lost parents, our concerns, our troubles, our sickness, our fears as well as our glories and triumphs. We discussed new things we were trying on for size. We asked about mutual friends and each other’s siblings. Oh yes, we shared how AMAZING our grands are.
Imagine for a moment, what if, when we were young school chums we didn’t talk about life and who we wanted to marry, our ridiculous siblings, or mean teachers? What if after school, we didn’t sit and talk about the world, how we stood on issues, what we wanted to be when we grew up? What if we didn’t say much? What if we sat and ate french fries (or drank coffee) and did our own private thing on an electronic device and we never actually connected on a personal level? What if we had not shared our souls even before we knew what souls were?
Would any of us now be curious enough or feel the pull of friendship to contact our old school chums? Would we make an effort and carve out time to reconnect? Would we just check the box (yes, I accept you as a “friend”) or would we thirst for personal time together? Would the ties that bind us, hold our hearts and souls together while we went out into the world and came back again?
The thing about childhood friends…. they know you. They were part of you when you were still trying on who you were. They are woven into our hearts from a very young age.
We were five or six when we met. We didn’t know we were being given a gift. It felt like the luck of the draw. Our parents happen to live in the same school district, by chance we ended up in the same schools.
It didn’t seem serendipitous or magical. I just knew her as my schoolmate, tall, pretty, a twin. It wasn’t until we talked more and grew through the years that I figured out she was also kind & smart. Part of being young friends is learning & listening & then borrowing the good parts we see and hear in our friends and tying them to our hearts.
I never dreamed she would be part of the thread that made up part of who I became. When you are with a lifelong friend, somehow you feel safe and comfortable. You feel accepted because we already accepted each other back in 1967. You open your mouth and spill things you don’t share with others.
Here’s the inside scoop:
She is much prettier than I remembered. She has a beautiful spirit and soul. She is kind-hearted, loving and smart. She turned out to be an amazing wife and mom and mother in law and grandma.
She has always been part of my circle. My chatty, talkative, opinionated, giggly, serious, thoughtful, tricky, hard, glorious circle.
Gentle suggestion? use technology to find an old friend. Figure out a way, make an effort to have coffee or french fries with that friend, in person.
You owe it to yourself and to her, turn off your phones and then talk, hold hands, giggle and talk some more. Talk for 4.5 hours over coffee. Yes, yes, everyone in your life will worry and fret because you didn’t answer your phone.
Tell them the truth. “I turned off my phone because I was TALKING with my friend.”
I am here to tell you it is good for your soul.
In this together, friends.