The Hard Facts: Hold On Tight

I’m on vacation this week, so thought it would be fun to get input on my search from the people witnessing it first hand. For Research Wednesday, my mom explains why maintaining old friends is just as important as making new ones.

“Sociologists now have data showing that women who can maintain friendships through the decades are healthier and happier, with stronger marriages. Not all women are able to sustain those friendships, however. … When women are between the ages of twenty-five and forty, their friendships are most at risk, because those are the years when women are often consumed with marrying, raising children and establishing careers.” (Jeffrey Zaslow, The Girls from Ames)

As a woman in her late fifties (yikes!), I cherish the friends whom I have known all my life. I recently moved back to Chicago after 30 years in New York. After being a widow for three years, I decided to return to the city of my youth where I had my strongest support system, including family (sister, brother, daughter, cousins) and friends. While I have a few very close friends in New York, whom I miss terribly, I’m so lucky to have come back to those who’ve known me forever. There’s Joy, one of the first people to speak to me on the train to camp when I was nine years old. (The fact that she took one look at me with my very short haircut and said “What are you doing here? This is a camp for girls!” notwithstanding.) There’s Pat, who lived across the street from me growing up and with whom I spent almost every weekend night of elementary school. And there’s Laurie, who’s a cousin but has also been a close friend since we were high school cheerleaders.

There were times in my adult life when I didn’t have as much contact with these friends as I would have liked—they lived in Chicago and I was in New York—but they’ve always been there when I needed them. When my husband died, Pat and Laurie hopped on a plane to come to the funeral. Seeing them instantly made me feel a little better. It was a relief to be with people who knew me so well that I could totally relax with them. When my sister asked Joy, who was living in New Jersey at the time, to bring some food for lunch after the funeral, she showed up with enough for an army. I remember her saying “I got the sandwiches, then I decided that might not be enough, so I got the chicken, and in case that wasn’t enough, I got the salads.” In other words, she stepped up. I didn’t have to worry about a thing.

When I moved back to Chicago, there they were. Yes, they’re busy with boyfriends and husbands and jobs, but when I need to spend time with someone who knows me so well that I don’t have to be “on,” I can call any one of them.

So girls, don’t let the building of your adult life get in the way of maintaining the friendships you’ve spent so much time and energy developing. You’ll find that whatever effort it takes—going back to your home town for a wedding or reunion, taking time out of a family visit for lunch or dinner with pals—you’ll be glad you made it. Once you emerge from those years from twenty-five to forty, those long-time friendships will mean the world to you.

15 Comments

Filed under The Hard Facts

15 responses to “The Hard Facts: Hold On Tight

  1. megan

    I so long for lifelong friends! But, what do you do when you’ve made every effort you can to stay in touch and nothing works? They won’t go halfway, they really don’t seem interested in the friendship, etc. Granted, I was the one to move away, but what if ‘whatever it takes’ is not enough? You can’t make new lifelong friends…

    • Cathy

      Megan, I know what you mean. It’s easy to feel like giving up when they don’t reciprocate. But I’m closer to Harriet’s age and can tell you that some of those people will be ready to jump back into a more active friendship with you later on in life. I moved away, too, and did not have regular contact with some of my closest friends from early days. But now that we are all middle aged, we are in touch more often, and some of us have picked up right where we left off. The key is to stay in touch, even if they don’t make the effort. Keep sending holiday cards. Drop a note now and then. Use Facebook and other social media. Go to high school reunions. Do not get discouraged! My mother did this, too, and was absolutely the best at keeping lifelong friends of anyone I know. You can do this!

  2. Callie

    Love the post Harriet! I really agree…I try really hard to hold on tight to all my friends (Hence, having so many close friends still from high school!)

  3. Amen! I’m trying to maintain long-term friendships while still making new ones…it’s tough, but I think it will be worth it.

  4. Sage advice. Those old connections are rich with history and are worth treasuring.

  5. Anonymous

    I am enjoying the people in Rachel’s life posting their perspectives on BFF search.

    Most of my family and some childhood friends are in the Chicago area. I always enjoy reunions, getting hugs from those who live far away and sharing some delicious Chicago pizza while we catch up. It is also fun to go sit together and cheer for favorite sports teams at live games. Go Sox!!
    Most everyone is on facebook and we can keep up with each other. But nothing is as good as going back home to visit them in person.
    I have taken some of my closest friends from where I now live on road trips to the windy city to meet my family and friends. Road trips with my newer adult friends, btw, are a wonderful way to build stronger bonds and share fun times along the way.

  6. tommy

    ” (The fact that she took one look at me with my very short haircut and said “What are you doing here? This is a camp for girls!” notwithstanding.)” – Thanks, Mom. I had coffee in my mouth….some is in my nose, now.

    Friends who step up are hard to find, and somewhat unexpectedly, seem to find you…. I was injured 4 years ago and a couple we met at kids’ taekwondo class helped us out. Charlie drove me to work 8 months b/c my license was suspended (traumatic brain injury) and they helped take care of the kids for doc appts. Another couple we met at church did much the same, and lived up the block. I was the unofficial babysitter lots since I was not working, and we did other stuff to help reciprocate – still haven’t caught up! And there’s a younger, single girl from work we got to be friends with who also drove me to work a few weeks before she moved to Austin. We still keep in touch with everyone and have visited Austin a few times since we moved back to Texas. And then there’s the LMT who we became friends with who has been a godsend….. helped pack, unpack, clean, etc., etc. Anyhoo…this is getting longer than I intended. Point is, we couldn’t have made it without them. Thank goodness for good friends.

  7. Janet

    Harriet, we are in the same boat! I grew up here in San Francisco, and still maintain very close friendships with several women whom I have known since we walked to school together. We always celebrate each others birthdays (albeit never on “the” day) and all cherish our time together. These half-century (!) relationships are unique and ones that can never be duplicated. In short, these women can finish my sentences for me :-)

  8. Shari

    Love the post Harriet! I am fortunate enough to have very long-time friends in my life. I live around the corner from a high school (youth group) friend. Plus, my college friend, a true bff, and I live in the same town as well. I agree that these friendships are so important – time alone, makes them stronger. I know that we each ignore some of each other’s annoying habits just because we’ve been friends so long. More often and more importantly, we appreciate each other and all of our quirks because of our history together.
    I also would like to add a positive spin to Jeffrey Zaslow’s comment on how hard maintaining friendships can be with the addition of husbands, children and careers. These aspects of life bring new friends. I have found and maintained very dear friends through these three aspects of my life–especially through my children and career. When my children were young, I would join playgroups and also meet women at lessons, birthday parties, etc. Later on, in the pre-teen and teen years, my children made their own friends. Fortunately for me, I have become friendly with my son’s friends’ mothers (and fathers–we go out for dinner as couples too). It’s just lucky that, since it’s nearly impossible to choose our teenage children’s’ friends, our children brought us together. I must say, I am not as lucky with my daughter’s friends’ moms. We are friendly, but that’s about it. And, it’s not so bad, getting back to the main point; we don’t really have enough time in our lives to maintain so many friendships!

  9. Husband

    My mother-in-law was a cheerleader? Sweet.

  10. Marcia

    When an old friend crosses your mind and you put off getting in touch because you don’t have time, stop and make the effort! Yesterday I learned of the death of a very dear friend who was like a brother to me for close to 50 years. He’s been on my mind a lot these past few months, but I’ve been “too busy” to email or call, and now it’s too late… I’m American living in Japan and over the past year have been reaching out through fb to old friends that date back to high school days (with no communication for decades!) and they have been so thrilled to hear from me again. Sure, our paths definitely have gone different ways, but there is still a connection. So thanks Mom, for sharing your words of wisdom about cherishing old friends.

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