Recently I was FaceTiming with my young grandson and told him I had to go because I was meeting some friends. He seemed happy to hear that and told his brother that their Mimi was going to go play now.
Because, obviously, in his world, that’s what friends do when they get together. While my friends and I are not building forts or playing Candyland, it still thrills me to meet up with them in my new town. Perhaps it holds a special poignancy for me because I grew up moving between military bases, and, for someone like me, the anxiety of always being the new girl never leaves you.
“I’d be afraid of making new friends at our age,” a recent houseguest told me. She and her husband want to retire away from where they grew up, raised their children, and had their careers. But the idea of starting over, she confessed, is daunting.
I explained that there’s great joy and not a little trepidation when you put down roots in a new town. I reminded her that although you can’t make old memories with new friends, you can start the next stage of life with a fresh set of travelers. While the friends you worked with, carpooled with, raised children with are forever stamped upon your heart, the ones you choose now may be the ones who walk with you through the coming hardships, indignities, and heartbreaks of this last leg of the journey.
Here’s my list of a few favorite types of friends one can hope for.
The friend who makes you laugh
These are the friends who know better than to sit next to me in church or at a funeral where it’s inappropriate to laugh. Because once we start giggling, there’s no stuffing it back in.
You know who you are!
The friend who makes all the plans
I cherish the ones who find the concert, scope out the sales, organize the tour, make the reservations, send the evite and look far enough ahead when everything’s not already sold out. Nobody would ever put me in charge of organizing the fun things. But I give thanks for those who do.
The one who gets you
It takes maturity to understand that what stays with you is not what you say to someone, but how you make them feel. I am grateful for friends who make me feel like the best version of myself. I don’t know how they do it, but it’s a rare character trait steeped in abundant grace and acceptance. Now that I’ve been in Beaufort for a couple of years, I’m trying to be that person for others. I want people to feel energized and uplifted by being with me. And I believe that, as a recent recipient of that kind of acceptance and grace, I have a good shot at becoming the giver. After all, I’ve experienced first-hand how a nervous newcomer can bloom under the gift of focused attention.
The one who opens up new worlds
Oh ye who have immersed yourself in obscure hobbies, traveled to remote destinations, understands and can explain how weird things work: please come sit next to me. I want to hear about your ham radio group or your sea glass collection. If you have hiked the Appalachian trail and love Bill Bryson, let us settle in for a long chat. If you know birds by their song, fish by the way their tail flips, can navigate by the stars and name all the constellations, I want to be in your presence. If you think you are the most interesting one in the room, even if you are, then nah, I’m good.
The inclusive one
Like Gertrude Stein hosting Hemingway and Fitzgerald in Paris, she generously gathers her old friends to meet the newcomer. She opens the doors, extends the invitations and is the first to draw someone into a conversation. I’m trying to follow her path, but it’s not easy. I hesitate over when I should jump in. But I believe that, of all the qualities I value in a friend, this one demands to be paid forward, so I’m working on it.
Looking over my list of qualities I want in new friends, I go back to my grandsons to see if they have further edification on the complex art of friendship-building.
“What,” I ask, “do you think Mimi does when she plays with her friends?”
Always honest, the three-year-old throws up his hands and says, with a dramatic sigh, “I don’t know.”
The six-year-old thinks about it. He’s getting the hang of making friends now that’s he’s in kindergarten, and I hope he finds, as did I, that it may not be as easy as one may hope, but it’s not as hard either. Finally, he brightens like an explorer who’s just found a great treasure. “I think you go to concerts with them,” he says.
Well, yes sir, indeed I do. If someone has lined it all up for me, that is.