This afternoon, while I should have been writing, I indulged myself in a bit of television procrastination. After flipping through the channels for a few minutes, I landed on Stand By Me—one of my favorite childhood movies. At the end of the movie, the narrator writes, “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”
His question is intended to be rhetorical, of course, since no one has friends like they do when they are 12.
Or do they?
Thinking back on my own childhood friendships, I realized that, other than a few people who were my friends when I was 12 and are still my friends today, I don’t have friends like I did when I was 12. I have fewer friends, and the friendships I do have are harder to maintain.
Between work obligations, family responsibilities, tending to my marriage, and taking care of a couple of kids, friendships can sometimes feel a bit inconvenient. Maintaining friendships now is often hard, awkward and messy. Friendships can slip down on our priority lists. But, even though friendships as a grown-up look a whole lot different than friendships did at 12, they are, undoubtedly, better.
Friendship now is driving three hours each way to spend just a handful of hours together.
Friendship is wearing silly hats at her first chemo treatment.
Friendship is responding with her favorite line from Dirty Dancing, Love Actually, The Princess Brideor Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, depending on the situation.
Friendship is a group text on Thanksgiving morning that says simply: “Thankful we all still like each other so much.”
Friendship is laughing until you cry (or pee yourself) and crying until you laugh (or pee yourself).
Friendship is unintentionally hurting each other, and awkwardly explaining why your feelings were hurt even though you feel a little like you’re 12 years old again, and listening and apologizing and knowing that, because she trusted you with her tender heart, your friendship is stronger as a result.
Friendship is folding her family’s laundry—boxers, onesies and pajamas—because she is too sick, too busy or too stressed.
Friendship is listening to her cry on the phone because her mom died last year, and she is still, and forever will be, grieving.
Friendship is not cleaning the house before she comes to visit.
Friendship is texts in the middle of the night because one of your kids has a fever or you had a fight with your spouse or you just can’t sleep.
Friendship is voting for different political candidates, having different religions, and disagreeing about parenting philosophies, but respecting each other’s opinion and trying the best you can to see things from her point of view—even though you know you never will agree with her.
Friendship is squeezing in a quick mid-week lunch while she is in town for a business trip during which time seems to stop for a few hours.
Friendship is spending eight months planning a weekend getaway that will last only two days during which time seems to stop for a few days.
Friendship is getting irritated because she forgot your birthday or said something snippy about your husband, and not talking to her for a few weeks, and then eventually missing her too much. And you can’t remember why you were mad in the first place, so you call and talk, and it’s like nothing ever happened.
Friendship is still wondering what she ever saw in that guy she dated in college.
Friendship is worrying that you aren’t doing enough, wishing that you knew what to say, and asking how you can help.
Friendship is telling each other that you want to talk about anything other than spouses and kids, but after five minutes together, asking, “So how’s your husband’s job going?” or “How is your daughter doing in soccer?”
Friendship is going days, weeks, months or even years without an actual face-to-face conversation, subsisting only on text messages and emails and Facebook status updates, but when you’re together it feels like the perfect mixture of family, home, familiarity and love—which is enough to sustain you until next time.
Besides, you know way too many secrets about each other to let go.