I spent 4 hours chatting with my grandmother in-law last night. She’s 79 years old and chock full of 79 years worth of wisdom and life stories. One of the stories she told me really grabbed my attention. It was about the power of true friendship and why real friends always maintain a unique connection even in each other’s prolonged absence. The story went something like this…
I grew up in Jamaica Plain, an urban community located on the outskirts of Boston, Massachusetts. In the 1940’s it was a wholesome, quaint little community. It was my home and I loved it there, back then I thought I would never leave. My best friend Rose and I used to collectively dream about raising a family of our own someday. We had it all planned out to live next door to one another.
Our dream remained alive through grade school, high school, and even beyond. Rose was my maid of honor when I got married in 1953 to the love of my life, Dick. Even then she joked that she was just one perfect guy short of being married, thus bringing us closer to our dream. Meanwhile, Dick aspired to be an Officer in the Marines and I fully supported his ambitions. I realized that he might be stationed far away from Jamaica Plain, but I told him I would relocate and adjust. The idea of experiencing new places together seemed somewhat romantic to me.
So, in 1955 Dick was stationed in Alaska and we relocated. Rose was sad to see me leave, but wished me the best of luck. Rose and I remained in touch for a few years via periodic phone calls, but after awhile we lost track of one another. Back in the 1950’s it was a lot more difficult to stay in touch with someone over a long distance, especially if you were relocating every few years. There were no email addresses or transferable phone numbers, and directory lookup services were mediocre at best.
I thought of her several times over the years. Once in the mid 1960’s when I was visiting the Greater Boston area I tried to determine her whereabouts, but my search turned up empty handed. Jamaica Plain had changed drastically in the 10 years I was gone. A pretty obvious shift in income demographics was affecting my old neighborhood. My family had moved out of the area, as did many of the people I used to know. Rose was nowhere to be found.
52 years passed and we never spoke. I’ve since raised a family of 5, all of whom now have families of their own, and Dick passed away a few years ago… God rest his soul. Basically, a lifetime has passed. Now here I am at the doorstep to my 80th birthday and I receive a random phone call on an idle Wednesday afternoon. “Hello”, I said. “Hi Natalie, its Rose.” the voice on the other end replied. “It’s been so long. I don’t know if you remember me, but we used to be best friends in Jamaica Plain when we were kids.” she said.
We haven’t seen each other yet, but we have spent countless hours on the phone catching up on 52 years of our lives. The interesting thing is that even after 52 years of separation our personalities and interests are still extremely similar. We both share a passion for several hobbies that we each picked up independently several years after we lost touch with one another. It almost feels like we are picking up right where we left off, which is really strange considering the circumstances.
Her husband passed away a few years ago as well, but she mailed me several photographs of her family that were taken over the years. It’s so crazy, just looking that the photos and listening to her describe her family reminds me of my own; a reasonably large, healthy family. Part of me feels like we led fairly similar lives.
I don’t think the numerous similarities between our two lives are a coincidence either. I think it shows that we didn’t just call each other best friends, we truly were best friends, and even now we can be best friends again. Real friends have 2 things in common: a compatible personality and a strong-willed character. The compatible personality is what initiates the connection between 2 people and a strong-willed character at both ends is what maintains the connection. If those 2 ingredients are present in a friendship, the friendship is for real, and can thus sustain the tests of time and prolonged absence without faltering.