But I digress. The topic at hand is friends, not the lack of friends, and contrary to what I might have led you to believe I do have a very close group of friends that I’ve known since grade school. The four of us will call or email each other on a fairly consistent basis; we even get together every couple of weeks and pick up our ongoing dialog where we left off. It’s like this ever-expanding novel that grows larger with each passing year.
The thing with old friends, I mean friends you actually grew up with, is that they really know you, I mean really. They’ve met your family, hung out in the house you grew up in, seen how you’ve changed over the years, met not only your wife but most of the girls you’ve dated before her. They’ve seen when you’ve done something completely embarrassing and they’ve been there when you’ve accomplished goals that you’ve set for yourself.
Old childhood friends can also be like an extended family, and like family, whenever you get together you tend to slip back into the roles you held growing up. I know when I get together with my family I feel myself quickly slipping back into my role as the oldest son. When I get together with my childhood friends I find myself slipping back into my familiar role of that group too (that would be the wisecracking, goofy guy). We’re like members of an old rock band who get together for an annual reunion tour, automatically moving to our designated places on the stage, strapping on our instruments and playing the same enjoyable songs we’ve played countless times before.
When I was a junior in high school my family moved to another town. It wasn’t far from the town I grew up in and I was driving by then so I could still visit my old friends but I still remember it as being an incredibly strange experience. I was going someplace where nobody knew me; I had no role to play, no group I was bound to hang with. I could be whoever I wanted to be and I have to admit I enjoyed the experience. There’s something to be said about trying to create the person you want to be. But after a while I’d feel that tug and I’d find myself getting together with my old friends and slipping back into that familiar role again and enjoying the experience for what it was and is…something special.
The years blend together, jobs and relationships come and go. My friends and I grow older (and somewhat stranger). It’s all the same but incredibly different like a really good mash-up with something old and something new. Bonus points go out to anyone who can tell me who their best friend was in the fourth grade and whether or not you’re still in touch.
Enjoy the mash-up.