Let me just start by stating the obvious: I miss you.
We’ve been friends for 20, maybe 30 years, and although we have lived in different cities for the majority of that time, there are still days when I miss you so much, and the bittersweet nostalgia is so strong I can almost taste it. There are days when the longing that I feel for you and our friendship is a heavy and unshakable ache, like an overworked muscle after a strenuous yoga class (if I actually went to a yoga class, that is). And there are days when a wave of homesickness takes me by surprise with such ferocity that I’m almost knocked over.
Yet through the years, we have (almost) grown to accept the current reality of our friendship—a reality that it will likely remain for the foreseeable future. Texts, emails, Facebook messages and occasional (rare?) phone calls are our primary modes of communication these days, and for the most part, I’ve accepted that. I might even go so far to say that, most days, I am used to it.
But while I may have accepted it, that doesn’t mean I don’t wish things were different sometimes, that we lived closer, that we saw each other more often, that we weren’t so busy. I still miss you. I will always miss you.
I miss the way things were back in the day. I miss how spending time together used to be as easy as walking across the hall or picking up the phone to say, “I’ve got wine, and I’m coming over.” I miss conversations that stretched lazily for hours because we had nowhere to go and nothing to do. I miss the way we mastered the art of the comfortable silence. I miss the way we borrowed shoes and makeup and bras without a second thought. I miss our standing dates to watch 90210 and Party of Five and later Ally McBeal.
I miss our willingness to be authentic and real, to be seen and known. I miss the way we shared our big dreamy dreams, visions free from realities like kids and work and finances. I miss the way being together felt like being home. But mostly, I miss you.
Over the years, we’ve developed new friendships, close friendships even, with neighbors, work colleagues, and other parents—friendships that are formed, nurtured and sustained through constant interactions, shared activities and common goals. I am grateful for these new friends. We need them to fill the open and empty spaces. We need them to help us shed the shadows of our past. We need them to feel a little less lonely. But these new friends aren’t you.
Life has been moving so fast lately, too fast sometimes. Days and weeks and months get caught up in piano lessons and soccer games, conference calls and work deadlines, packing school lunches and attending about a million birthday parties, and before I know it, years have slipped by. But when we are together—whether it’s for a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon or a quick midweek lunch while you’re in town for a business trip or maybe even an indulgently long girls’ weekend—time seems to stop, or a least slow down, if only for those few hours or couple of days.
We might go days, weeks, months or even years without an actual face-to-face conversation—our friendship subsisting on text messages and emails and Facebook status updates—but when we are together again, it is as if we were sitting on that ratty old couch from our college apartment again. And although our conversations now might include updates on our children and spouses, rather than a recap of the previous night’s shenanigans, the familiarity and authenticity remain, our willingness to be seen and known persists, the friendship still feels like home.
Hidden behind the walls of nostalgia are steel beams of a shared history, and underneath the years apart is a strong foundation built with decades of friendship. We are able to step back into those empty rooms left open by time apart and fill them with words and hugs and laughter as if there were no time lost at all.
With the backdrop of our shared youth, we are able to bridge the differences in our individual adulthoods. We might be working parents or stay-at-home parents. Some of us might lean politically to the left, others to the right. We might live in different parts of the country, making our homes in suburban, rural or urban locales. On paper, the differences between us—as well as the people we were back then—might seem to outnumber the similarities, but the differences just don’t seem to matter because the depth of the friendship is deeper, the threads of our common past are stronger.
So we get together when we can, which, of course, is never often enough. When we do, we catch up on families and jobs and the daily goings-on in our lives. We talk about the ways that our lives are oh-so-different from back in the day and the ways we have changed. We spend hours reminiscing, saying “Remember when…” and laughing until tears roll down our cheeks and we come dangerously close to peeing our pants. We talk about hard things that seemed impossible back then—things like cancer and marriage struggles and aging parents—conversations made easier by the welcome eyes and open heart of a true friend.
And when our all-too-short rendezvous is over, we hug goodbye and say “I love you” and plan the next time we will see each other. Then we slip back into our respective day-to-day lives. We focus our attention on our spouses and our kids, our families and our nearby friends. We send emails and call each other from time to time. We post photos on Facebook and text each other. Our days get caught up in piano lessons and soccer games, conference calls and work deadlines, school lunches and birthday parties.
Through it all, we miss each other—until the next time, when the time apart will slip away, and we will talk and laugh like we saw each other yesterday, and time will stand still for a little while.