New-Old Friends

I hear many stories about friends reconnecting during—and because of—Covid. Isolation gives all of us more time to think and to reach out to people who were once important to us but with whom we’ve lost contact. It also offers us the space to appreciate deeply any contact we do have. Before Covid, I took for granted meeting friends for walks and meals, concerts and lectures. These were a “given,” encounters ordinary life had always offered. Now, because I spend so much more time alone or with Stephen only, any contact with dear ones becomes special and my appreciation of our interaction heightened.

Covid provided the impetus to reconnect with a childhood friend with whom I had been particularly close in high school. Our first Zoom reunion proved so delightful that since then, we’ve made it a point to get together once a month. During these hour-long chats we’ve, of course, reminisced, but more important, we’ve rediscovered each other, not only as we once were, but as we are today: two women of a certain age with a lot of life under our proverbial belts.

My friend and I Zoomed again last weekend, and after talking about our work—we’re both, coincidentally, writers and writing coaches—life during Covid and our families, particularly our sons and grandchildren, we dived into our childhoods and our families of origin. I don’t remember why we turned to the now distant past– perhaps one of us asked a question or made a reference that catapulted us back—but we began talking about situations and dynamics that had once caused us deep pain.

For my part, I was surprised at what I was learning. When we were in high school, all of my friends and I respected family privacy. Either because our culture taught us to keep our struggles to ourselves or because we each thought we were the only ones suffering and didn’t want to be different, we never mentioned troubles at home. But as my friend and I talked, I realized that all the time I was struggling with what was happening inside our house on Knox Road, she was struggling too.

We didn’t dwell on these topics, but we didn’t skirt them either. We spoke directly and candidly about what had harmed us. And as we talked, something began to shift within me: that Jane Anne Pomerantz of so long ago no longer felt so alone and forsaken, so much less fortunate than all her friends with happier and kinder families. After all these years, I realized I hadn’t been the only one. In addition to everything else we shared—the high school newspaper and yearbook, our first cigarette and first loves, the Senior Prom—my friend and I had another bond, this one much deeper and more enduring.

After we had said goodbye, and I reflected on the time we had spent together, I began marveling that not only had my friend and I both survived our family difficulties, we have both learned how to thrive. We are fuller and richer humans than we were in high school—of course—and our renewed friendship includes all of us, both the young and vulnerable women we were in high school and the passionate successful women we are today.

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