I was best friends with Carly in middle school and high school; we were friends from an after-school activity, so our friendship never had the day-to-day grind to it, but was always a weekend thing, making it more special. But as often happens, we went our separate ways after high school, and I do mean separate: she went to live in a frigid state and I went to live in a sweltering country. Years passed, decades in fact, without seeing each other. And, I must admit, I am the type of person who believes that friendships have their time and if they end, there’s no sense in mourning them, rather rejoice in having had them and move on.
So when I saw Carly for the first time a few weeks ago at a three-friends reunion (that was only possible because a third friend, Bernadette, had stayed in touch with her forever; and I had reconnected with Bernadette at a chance meeting in a park two weeks after I had moved back to the states from swelterland eight years ago), I got quite a humbling surprise. After a wonderful friendship hug Carly held up the charm that she was wearing and said that I had given it to her and that I had bought it at a crafts fair. Not only that, but Bernadette said that Carly always wears that charm, that it is her “thing.”
I was stunned. I stood there looking at the charm, willing myself to remember it, which I did, vaguely, after looking at it for a while. Now this is not about how bad my memory has become, but about how things remind us of people, and how, sometimes, with no things around, we lose the thoughts that connect us back to people. I am not a “thing” person, but looking at that charm dangling from a silver chain around Carly’s neck, I wished that I was one. I wished that I had a memento of every friend I ever had, that I had a thing to look at and touch to bring back memories of each friend and things we had done together. I wished that I could hold onto friendships, even if their day-to-day presence was past.
During these decades when we were living our unenmeshed lives, I would occasionally think of Carly; but she, she was committed to our friendship in the intangible way that tangible things manage to create. She wore our friendship around her neck; and I, I felt humbled by that act. Maybe after a while it came to symbolize more than our friendship, but friendship in a more general way, but still she was wearing that two inch gold and silver charm of a woman that created a link between us, that kept alive our friendship. (I now remember that I had spent a lot of money on it, and I am so glad that on at least one occasion I splurged to get the right gift.)
Now I am glad that I took some rocks from a beach in Monterery when I visited a friend there in March. (I still feel guilty about that taking; next time my memento will be purchased.) I have one on my desk at school, and a few more at home. When I look at them I remember the windy beaches that silenced our endless conversations, and the surf unexpectantly rising to soak us up to our knees, and the trees twisted by the ocean’s winds, and the otters and the seals, and the drive in Big Sur where we hit a rock while listening to a Monsoon wedding song, but most of all I remember the talks and the feel of our friendship. And I am grateful for those rocks for they have become memory rocks.
So maybe being a “thing” person is not so bad. It’s not about the materialism, the act of owning something, but rather the thing as reminder, as container of memory. Oh, how I wish I had a scarf from my French friend, Arielle, with whom I used to raid the kibbutz pantry for late night snacks. And a piece of charcoal from my friend the artist whose name I cannot remember. And a rugby ball from my rugby-playing college boyfriend. And…, and something to touch from everyone who touched my life so that they won’t get lost in the progression of my life.
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I’d love to hear about the things you have that remind you of your friends.
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