I remember one Christmas holiday when Dee was about three. Jim and I took her to the annual bonfire that our town puts on for the kids. Saint Nick was there on a fire truck, and they had cookies and oranges and hot apple cider. Jim and I stood on the perimeter of the bonfire. We didn’t know very many people, and we didn’t see much opportunity to meet anyone while standing in front of a giant blaze. Dee, on the other hand, approached a girl about her age. They looked at each other and one touched the other’s coat and vice versa. Then they ran off to play.
“Don’t you wish making new friends were that easy,” I told Jim. “I mean, you just see someone about your height, don’t even exchange names, and off you go holding hands.”
“Yeah,” he said kind of dreamy.
I used to believe that the best friend-making opportunities came when one was much younger. I was still friends with a girl I grew up with since age nine. Early twenties, too, were easy. Some girls I kind of knew in high school went to the same university as me. Our friendships deepened as we studied late at night in a restaurant shaped like a barn and gained weight on cinnamon rolls slathered in butter.
Mid-twenties my work environments turned up good connections. In one early job at an advertising agency, we kept a dart board near the art director’s conference table. We’d brainstorm while playing a game of “Mickey Mouse.” The radio technician at our agency eventually recruited me to his team, and I spent the next couple of years toodling around Santa Fe with my fellow Dancing Pigs, as we were called.
My thirties brought several friends who were new mothers like myself. I joined a Moms-and-Infants group when Dee was born. We met every week at parks or one another’s homes. We traded advice on how to treat diaper rash and where to buy the best breast pumps. Eventually, though, I had to return to work. I let those friendships fall away, until finally, it seemed like it was just Jim and me together, figuring things out.
Now in my 40s, I’ve struck new friendships through politics, community involvement, the girls’ school, art and writing. The thing I’ve noticed about the people I spend the most time with is that we either do nothing together (except talk, laugh, drink beer) or we do something (write, conspire, paint). Which makes me think that while there is no rhyme or reason to friendship, there is indeed friendship. And, contrary to what I thought that winter night at the bonfire, making friends isn’t all that hard.
What has been your experience with making friends? Do friendships come through your passions (art and writing, for example), or do they come from living on the same street? Do you still have friends from childhood, or do you find that friendships happen in time and once that time has passed, so has the friendship? Tell me your thoughts on friendships and what makes them last.