On the suburban street where I grew up in the 70's, there were many kids. We played together in the park that was situated in the middle of our neighborhood. For some reason, it had 100 foot Douglas Fir trees, and I realize now that the whole area must have been covered with a forest, before they cut the trees down to build our houses and streets.
But this was not meant to be a post about my park, amazing though it was. It was supposed to be about friendship.
Picture me, age 10. Scrawny body, long blond hair, hand-me-downs. 1977. Purple bike with banana seat and big handlebars. Quiet suburban neighborhood, born into existence the same year as me.
At the far end of 39th Avenue was my friend Holly's house. Around the corner and down a few houses was my friend Lynn's house. My house was pretty much equidistant from both of them.
I was friends with Lynn. I was friends with Holly. Lynn and Holly were not friends.
Or they tried to be, sometimes, if we all happened to be together for some reason. But those moments I remember as awkward, and filled with meanness. I could not figure out how, when they were both my friends, they couldn't manage to be friends themselves. So for the most part, I kept these two friendships separate. It was as if there were two circles, and I was the point where they intersected. My house was the literal and figurative center.
Fast forward to high school, with its cliques and cliches. I was lucky enough to have a "best friend" at this time, but beyond that, I never had a group of friends that I hung out with exclusively. I had "volleyball friends", but didn't do much with them outside of practice, bus rides, and games. We might hang out together during the season, but after it was over, not so much. I had "waver friends", but didn't do much with them outside of dancing in clubs and smoking clove cigarettes and discussing music. There were the popular kids, of course, and though I was certainly never ostracized, and was sometimes even included in party invitations, I was never truly a part of them (as evidenced by the fact that I was never voted onto Prom Court!)
I had friends who were jocks, preps, punks, waver, and outcasts. (I loved the outcasts best.)
I seemed to exist on the edge of many circles.
I was the place where several circles intersected.
This is what I have been thinking about lately. Especially tonight, after hosting my son's 10th birthday party earlier today, and seeing children and adults from several different "circles" in my present life, all together in one place.
For several years, when I first moved to Colorado, and during the first few years of my sons' lives, I didn't really have any friends at all. I had an infant, a toddler, a husband, and a mother-in-law, and that was about it. I look back on those days and wonder how I ever managed. Then I met Sara at my new teaching job (Hi Sara!), and knew instantly that I wanted to be her friend. Now, eight years later, I think I would call her my "best friend".
But just like with my best friend in high school, Sara and I don't necessarily have the same friends.
In my present life, I have managed to surround myself with several circles of friends. I value them all. Each circle. Each individual. Each one brings something unique and special into my life. Some are for dancing. Some are for crying. Some are for sharing soup. Some are for spiritual kinship. Some are for creative inspiration. Some are for fun. Some are for shared interests. Some are for the neighborhood. Some are for art. Some are for the intellect. Some just are. And of course, these are not exclusive categories!
And I never tire of meeting new people, and getting to know them, and expanding the circle, or creating a new one. Most of all, I enjoy bringing the circles together. They overlap in all kinds of places, not just me.
But sometimes I wonder if it isn't all too much. Sometimes I see myself on the edge of circles, and not really a part of any of them. At these times, I long for the relationships you read about in books, you know, the four women that have been friends forever and ever........
But then I look back on my past, and I realize: I am not that person, the one who has the same friends forever and ever. I live within and among many. It's just who I am.
Today, I observed this same phenomenon with my son. At the party this afternoon, there were his old friends, his school friends, his Dungeons and Dragons friends, his neighborhood friends. Like mine, some of these overlap in several places, but others are completely separate, joined only together by HIM.
I hope he can see himself, not on the edge of many circles, but as the center of them all.