That Friend You Haven’t Talked to In Forever? Text Her. Here’s Why.
While scrolling through Facebook, I saw a photo of a friend who now lives down south. Except she wasn’t down south--the photo was taken just blocks from my house. I texted her right away.
“Are you here?” I asked. “Do you have time to get together?”
“Sure,” she typed back. “We haven’t seen each other much in the last 20 years, so why not try for this weekend? LOL.”
The LOL here (other than signifying that we are old) referred to the irony that for most of those 20 years, we lived within minutes of each other. We were both pregnant at the same time. Our kids went to the same pre-k, and we used to meet for breakfast after drop-off. But over the years, more babies were born, and we struggled to juggle working full-time with mothering all the time. Being a friend at any time fell off the to-do list. Go out on a Friday night? We’d try to schedule that, only to have plans fall apart at the last minute thanks to a vomiting child, a husband who had to work late, or being unable to muster the energy to put together an outfit, maybe even put on some make-up, when all either of us wanted was to be in bed as soon as the kids gave us a reprieve.
And suddenly, poof, nearly 20 years went by. When I heard she was moving away, I texted her congratulations. It was COVID times, and so I didn’t ask for a final get-together. And then she was gone.
There is something mystical, however, about the friends of your youth. She and I first met when I was 4 and she was 3. We grew up on the same block in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. My grandmother would yell at me each time I darted across the street (without waiting for an adult to cross me) so I could play at her house. She had two sisters, and soon a third, and her house was always brimming with activity and, if I'm honest, sheer, thrilling, chaos. I soon became the fifth kid, her mom carting me along to days at the beach and always setting a seat for me at the table.
She and I were inseparable for many years, riding our bikes down dead man’s hill in Sunset Park, running barefoot through the back alleys. (Why? I don’t know, but it was thrilling probably because it was wrong.) We played skelsies, finding beer caps in the gutter and then stealing matches from our parents to melt crayons to make the needed game pieces. We watched the boys play stickball in the street, yelling “car!” when needed, and were never so thrilled as when some guy with big biceps and an even bigger wrench came out to open the hydrants on a hot summer day.
I slept over her house whenever I could, and we’d lay in her bed late at night whispering to each other, and then giggling uncontrollably, until her father yelled, “Girls, go to sleep!” enough times that we finally listened. The window to her room didn’t have a screen, and we’d sit on the sill, our legs dangling out, yelling down to the kids playing below – there were so many kids playing in the streets those days, because that’s how you spent the summer: out the door after breakfast and home when the street lights came on.
Then we hit middle school. She moved a few blocks away, and this person who I felt was an extension of my own self – extended herself away. She got a boyfriend; I got a boyfriend. I went away to college; she stayed in Brooklyn. I moved to Michigan. She moved to Rockaway Beach. One day while visiting, with my 6-month-old baby on my hip, I awed at the fact that she was able to buy a house in New York City. When the opportunity came for my family to move back , I beelined it to her new neighborhood. My husband and I went into contract on new construction, just minutes away from my first best friend. It was like a circle completing itself. We’d raise our children together. We would be inseparable, again.
But then: Kids.
Within five years, we’d had five kids between us. Playdates were great for the kids but involved us barely finishing a conversation. And then our kids went to different schools. Our circles moved away from each other. She had a fourth baby just as I was seeing the light at the end of the teenager tunnel.
And so, we grew apart.
But then this weekend, I texted her. She was free. We spent Saturday afternoon together. And it was as if no time had passed. She was her same funny, big-hearted, no-nonsense self. We laughed. We drank a bottle of rose. We shared secrets and told stories of survival. And not one child interrupted us.
A week before, my 18-year-old daughter had a gaggle of her teenaged friends over for her birthday. They poured into the house, a wave of energy and laughter. The radio was on, and occasionally and very randomly they burst into song together. They teased each other in the natural way you do when friends are like siblings because you’ve known them so long. They cackled, and squealed, and ate everything in sight. And then they left. I wanted so much to just absorb their energy. I wanted to be the person in the gaggle of my own friends.
And then for one day, I got one friend, and it was everything I needed. I feel fortunate that we were able to pick up where we left off and invigorated by the idea of rekindling this relationship. Because to be honest, over the last 20 years I haven’t been a very good friend. I tried. But everything came before it: kids, husband, work, sleep. But now I see the benefits of putting the effort in. I also see the need for it. Sitting in my backyard and belly-laughing with a girlfriend is a gift that I do not give myself often enough. Beyond that, it’s an elixir I need to feel less alone. Because not only did we laugh, we related to each other. My internal struggles and guilt – she nodded in agreement, and I did not have to explain the how or why of them. She and I are both at the same stage of our lives, trying to remember who we are and move forward in a way that honors that.
I’m trying harder to reconnect with people who are near and dear. I’m setting up phone calls with people who are far away. I’m texting people I haven’t heard from in a while, just to say hi and reconnect. This feels small and it is, but I feel it mattering to them and makes me feel valued as well. Hearing what others are going through reminds me that everyone has challenges, and we all have our reasons for being radio silent for 20 years.
And also this: Being a friend makes me feel young again. Or, younger. Because yes, friends are people to lean on and shoulders to cry on. But they’re also damn fun.