We just returned from spending a couple of days in the mountains, relaxing, eating, hiking, and spending time with old friends. They’ve invited us, along with another couple, two of our dearest friends, to share their beautiful home overlooking a scenic mountain lake. We’ve all known each other for over thirty years. He and I were colleagues until his retirement, and we’ve taken a number of trips together here in the States, as well as around the world. We’ve watched each others’ kids grow up, get married, create lives of their own. We’ve seen the lines of age change our faces, the weight of years alter our movements, and the experience of life mellow our opinions along with our expectations.
To say our friends are hospitable, kind and charming would be gross understatements. We feel very comfortable together, knowing we are accepted, cared for, welcomed. There are no hidden agendas. No one is looking to find favor, advantage, opportunity. We have some shared history, a few common interests, and a tolerance for the other’s beliefs. We seek not to covert the other to our own ideology or faith. We enjoy each other’s humor, and have heard each other’s joke many times over, but we still laugh at each re-telling. We are very fortunate that life, on the whole, has been kind to us, and while we each have had our shares of trauma, we have learned to be grateful for the gift of each day. They are almost a generation older than us, but have retained the gift of play with each other, maintaining at times a degree of childish teasing and joy that gives me hope for our own futures.
Over time, I hope and expect we’ll have other friends come into our circle, but they will never be able to replace the bonds we have forged with each other over many decades. It takes time to get to know people well, to see them in different settings, to appreciate their character in response to the various challenges of life. There is also something to be said about being with a person who knows you well enough to see through the various protective veils we all wrap ourselves in, in front of whom there needs to be little or no need for subterfuge. Old friends become our dearest treasures.