Today I am meeting my mother’s oldest, closest friend. I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but I know they have been friends since they were in their teens or very early twenties. There has always been a photograph of this woman somewhere in our house. I don’t remember my mother talking to her often when I was young, but I do remember her going away once or twice by herself to visit this friend. She has an odd, almost legendary status amongst my siblings (we have been known to tease mom that this woman doesn’t really exist).
I cannot imagine going through life without regular contact with my closest female friends. One friend in particular I have been close to since I was 12 or 13. With the exception of a period in our late teens, we have never gone more than a year without a visit. We have moved near each other and moved away again. We talk a few times a week on the phone. Even when we are in long-term relationships, she is the person I tell everything to. She is the person who knows and remembers it all.
Having other women to talk to keeps me sane. It grounds me. Last night a girlfriend called me up at 3am. Minor personal crisis. Needed someone to listen. Someone to “get it”. Someone to be there. So I was. and I am. Always. She does the same for me. That’s how it’s supposed to work. If I don’t go through a minor crisis over my bathroom scale or bills without talking to one of them, there is NO WAY I would rush a kid to the emergency room or have a stressful parent-teacher conference without speed dialing my support network.
It makes me wonder how it must have been for my mother, to be so busy raising four children that she didn’t often have the time to get away and see her friends or take care of herself. How do you live a lifetime of messy kitchens and scraped knees and calls from the teacher and bottomless piles of laundry while simultaneously getting a master’s degree and having a career... how do you do that without being surrounded by the support of other women?
My mom has other friends. Another mother whose children were friends with us has been a particular source of moral support and camaraderie for her over the years. Maybe mom talked to her women friends more than I saw. Maybe she stole quiet moments in the laundry room on the cordless phone while we ran rampant and I just never knew.
So today I am meeting my mother’s Oldest Friend for the first time. If I have children, I want them to know my friends. They will never labor under the illusion that they are the extent of my world. My friends will share in watching them grow. I will be “Aunt” to their kids (the fun Aunt. The one who shows up with presents and tells wild stories and bails them out of trouble). I feel secure that we won’t stop talking often when they have kids... although I have found that the one friend who has a child and I are covering all sorts of new subject matter these days.