When you become a new mother, you spend a lot of time talking about making mom friends. I’ve written about it, as have countless others. We’ve thought it about it honestly, earnestly, and some times desperately. It’s as awkward as dating, it’s a necessary evil, and sometimes, in lucky circumstances, lifelong relationships are formed, relationships that can save us.
But when we become new mothers, we don’t often talk about old friends.
These are the friends who are very well having children in step with you, friends who remember when you, yourself, were a child. Friends who know your parents and know your siblings and slept on the floor in your childhood bedroom and slept on the floor in your college dorm room and saw you with the hair-sprayed bangs and the bad skin and the skinned knees and the broken heart.
Yet, these friends now live in San Francisco and London and Chicago and New Jersey and Texas and Philadelphia and Colorado and Detroit. You are in New York and you are so overwhelmed you can’t pick up the phone to tell them that you’re overwhelmed but you love them. These friends have lives that in some ways resemble yours, but in many ways, don’t. Maybe these friends read different books or blogs. Maybe these friends aren’t readers at all. Maybe these friends don’t think about organic mosquito repellent. Maybe they do. Maybe these friends have spouses who aren’t Jewish. Maybe these friends have spouses who are way more Jewish. Maybe these friends have divorced. Maybe these friends don’t work, or maybe they do work, but you aren’t interested in their work, nor are they in yours. Maybe these friends let their kids watch TV. If you actually get to talking you’ll reveal that you sometimes do, too.
Maybe you don’t ever get to talking because you don’t take the time because you think you maybe can’t relate to these old friends anymore, or maybe you can relate to them, but the fact that they know you so long and so well is too much. Looking into a mirror when you don’t want to look. Maybe these friends have disappointed you. But in the fog of the early years of parenting, with your new marriage and your new babies and your new house and the new life you are trying on for size, you forget that once, these friends saved you, too.
You complain to people you do have time for. You say: I can’t keep up. So-and-so wants too much from me. I don’t have time to call her back. She’s talking to me about things that don’t matter to me anymore, things that never did. I’ve changed too much. I’ve never even met her child! She’s never even met my partner! What’s the point?
I wish for a lot of things for my children. All the usual wishes, health, fulfillment, genuine happiness and then some. This weekend, after spending 36 hours with three very old friends, I add a wish to my list: I wish my girls will have the pleasure of knowing someone—a friend made outside their home—for 20, 30, 40 years. I hope they know that singular delight, when a word, a song, a photo, sends them reeling back toward another version of themselves, an earlier version, a version upon whom the current version is dependent.
This is a love letter to my old friends, those who really know me, and somehow, still love me, even though I haven’t given them much reason to love me lately. I’d like them to know that when we talk and we imagine what it might be like for our children to form their own friendships—like cousins, we say—my heart lifts. I’d like them to know that silly things, like breaking into song and referencing a shared experience from years ago, one that defined us and broke us down and keeps us laughing, this is enough to sustain us, even if we are very different. I want them to know that I am not judging them or their choices, and I work hard at this, just as I imagine they are working hard not to judge me and mine. I want them to know that it’s a cliché but it’s true: many weeks and months and in some cases, years, can pass, and I appreciate that we can pick up where we left off, usually.
Mostly, I want my old friends to know that I feel safe knowing they are out there, big hearts dotted all across the map.
Shabbat Shalom, old friends, wherever you are. Hope its sweet.