The other night was the last night of Hebrew School. I now have my Tuesday and Wednesday evenings back. I said goodbye to the sixth graders and the “big kids” (the middle and high schoolers) the previous night, but there were no dramatic pronouncements. When I said goodbye to the third graders, it was much different. I will sorely miss them. Before they bolted out of the classroom (with the boy who had been one of the rowdiest as the line leader because he had gained my trust that he would not lead them to whoop and holler down the hall), I told them how much I enjoyed being their teacher and how wonderful it was to spend the year learning with such a great group of kids—and I meant every word I said. There is something truly special about third graders. I haven’t studied enough child development to know why, but their blossoming and openness and giddiness is just a wonder of nature.
And then I did dismissal, otherwise known as ushering kids into the right cars and not letting parents who already have their darlings in their cars run over someone else’s kids, because what do they care—their kids are safely ensconced within.
Then one of my closest synagogue work friends left. The night before she joked that she wouldn’t give me a goodbye hug that night, but at the last moment—she didn’t want to get sentimental. We finally hugged; it was an uncertain hug because she’s not sure if she’ll be back to teach next year. We talked about getting together over the summer and I thanked her for being such a good role model to my daughter who helped her teach some of her classes for part of the year. And we broke the space rules as we stood there and intensified the feeling of friendship that had been steadily growing over the year.
Then I went inside and said goodbye to my other good synagogue friend. When we realized that I won’t be back until the end of the summer, we hugged. This is the woman with whom an amazing amount of ground was leaped over to develop a solid friendship once we both realized that we had been married to crazy Israelis. Now she’s married to a mere mortal who is a lovely and kind and gentle man. I love catching up with her in those few lull-like moments when we can act on our friendship.
As I walked out of the synagogue on my way to my car, I realized that those two women despise each other. There had been a scene in the middle of the year; there had been harsh words slung especially in one directions (of course, this was from one of the players, so the slinging was probably mutual); and there had been an unsuccessful “let’s all just get along” session lead by the director. How is it that I am close to both of them? Close as in get along in the comfortable fleeting friendship way that develops because you effortlessly click with someone. There have been no coffees together, or lunches out, or even shopping soirees (how women shop together is beyond me, but I know that it happens because two women in the department at school are forever wearing the same Ann Taylor outfits and shoes), simply a few minutes once or twice a week to exchange a hello, an update that all is well and if all is not well, to give and receive heartfelt compassion.
How is it that two women who I get along with so effortlessly so dislike each other? It punctures my whole “friends of friends” theory that says we can generally befriend a friend’s friend because we are on the same wavelength. Kumbaya and all that.
Friends of friends. Maybe we need to earn each and every one of our friends and friendships—and none can or should be taken for granted. And, perhaps, I should value each of those friendships more than I do because they are not doled out as easily as I had thought. And just perhaps I should value my ability to make friends and keep them, and not assume that it is the other person who is so friendly. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I am a good friend and not an incidental conversationalist.
Those hugs. They were from me and they were for me. They were a testament to something—something that I need to embrace and not merely walk through as so much air.