When Close Friends Live Far Away
Sharing the little things of everyday life can help long-distance friendships
(This article previously appeared on TheMid.com.)
I want to go to the grocery store with you. I want to see where your kids go to school and see them run and hug you when you pick them up in the afternoon. I want to sit with you in your kitchen, and cook with you at your stove. I want to sit in your living room and chat and have tea, and I want to walk out your front door and see what scene greets you every day. I want to see where you work, and what sits atop your office desk. I even want to know what your spring coat looks like, for goodness sake.
Because I want to soak in your everyday, so I can tuck it away for the next time we talk. I need pictures in my head, and to know the sum of your days, because I miss you, old friend.
They say it's hard to make friends once you're a grown-up, but I've been lucky. I live in a tight-knit community near Cleveland, Ohio, where I can't help but overlap with loads of like-minded, lovely women — and I'm sure if I stopped to count, I'd find I have a dozen that I could call upon for anything. They are cherished friends, and I love being able to see them often.
Friends From the Past
But there are also the friends I've left behind, my school friends. These friendships were born of different stuff, of bygone eras — mostly, of so very many hours together, doing a whole lot of nothing. Or so it seemed at the time.
There were the hours at high school, and then more hours at sports and clubs, and hours of sleepovers and hours of talking-talking-talking (and giggling-giggling-giggling), without any sense that we could ever spend too much time together or run out of things to say.
There were the hours of living together with the new-found friend — family that is born in college, when we were far away from real family that very first time. These are the girls in all my snapshots, with whom everything was an adventure, even if it was just sitting around laughing over pizza and beer.
There were the hours of crossword puzzles and cooking and studying with my law school roommates, housemates really, the very last ones before I married my sweetheart. And there were the hours between classes, hours of nothing but running and talking through a year's worth of training for my first (and last) marathon.
And, now, there are too few hours with these dear friends of mine. There are hardly any hours, it seems, because I left these girls, now women, scattered up and down the East Coast when I took my life to Cleveland.
It's the Little Things
I come east to see them when I can, in Boston, Mass., and New York City and Washington, D.C. and in between. We go sightseeing and to hip restaurants, and that's so much fun, but it's the glimpses of life in between that I most treasure. It's seeing a college friend as a mother for the first time, tenderly buckling her sweet baby into the car seat. It's picking up a friend's kids from school with her and sharing a smile over their heads as they squeeze through the crowd out the subway train's door like the city kids they are.
It's memorizing the warmth of being in her home, where she spends her hours now, so I can see it in my mind's eye as part of her. It's hearing the small stories that would never warrant a phone call or even a Facebook update, but that naturally grace face-to-face conversations with their charming little details.
I hate that I miss 40th birthdays and births of babies and girls' nights out, but most of all I hate that I miss your everyday life. So give it to me when I visit, and never worry that you're not "entertaining" me enough. Show me the ordinary you, the small familiarities, so I can keep you near when I am far.