Against the exceptional background of a worldwide pandemic, I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the last few years reflecting on friendship.
Regular connections with my friends have been a key lifeline during a rough few years, and I imagine I’m not alone. Pandemic activities have been much more intentional than in the Before Times, and I’ve been drawn closer to some friends and remained more distant from others.
I’ve taken part in regular three-person Zoom art-making sessions; caught up over in-person brunches with another mate; and had intense and meaningful FaceTime audio calls with someone who suffers from video fatigue. I’ve attended movies, musicals, and plays with one companion with many similar interests; and meandered through museums and gardens with another. (On the flip side, the pandemic ran roughshod over a couple of friendships, and two people who were once very close won’t speak to me.)
I no longer take friendship for granted, if I ever did. Maintaining them, like all types of relationships, takes effort. They require tending to, caring for, and careful looking after, like a garden. Which friend have I not seen for a while? Who’s having a rough time and could use some companionship? Who might enjoy a hike, or a storytelling night?
So when my dear friend Victoria realized that 2022 was the 40th (!) anniversary of when we first met as kids at an arts day camp, I was particularly moved. And also grateful, as I wouldn’t have realized we were hitting this precious milestone had she not brought it to my attention.
Together, we hatched a plan to commemorate the occasion, dubbing it a “friendiversary,” and inviting a few people to celebrate with us.
Several months, bouts of Covid, and one rescheduled event date later, the friendiversary evening was finally upon us. Due to extenuating circumstances, it was now 2023, but this detail was not important – we were just thrilled it was actually happening.
A small group of people close to us – from various eras of our lives – gathered in my living room. Victoria & I proceeded to read a collection of letters and cards we’d written to each other – mostly as teenagers, and mostly typed; we were both taking typing classes in high school, and tapping away at a machine in order to communicate was still a novelty.
Our missives were hilarious, poignant, bewildering, vulnerable, heart-warming, and often all of these at once. Recurring preoccupations ranged from our acting careers, to which boy(s) we liked at any given time, to prepping for French tests and other school-related stresses and logistics. Sharing these documents with each other, and with our audience, was an unforgettable experience.
After about an hour of reading and laughing, we chowed down on Chinese food – a longtime Victoria & kp favourite – Pocky, Chamonix orange cookies, and an assortment of sponge-cake logs from a big Asian supermarket that just opened in town, while reflecting back on our 40-year journey as best friends. Coming closer together at various times in our lives, drifting further apart during others, but always remaining trusted confidantes and supportive listeners, celebrating our joys and mourning our losses. Victoria dubbed our most recent coming together as a “friendship renaissance,” and I wholeheartedly agree.
Is it possible to meet a lifelong friend-soulmate at age 11 or 12? I think it just might be.