Remember that dumb song we used to sing in Girl Scouts? Well, even though I didn’t like it at the time, I’d like to take a closer look at the lyrics, now that I’m older and … wiser? “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold. A circle is round, it has no end. That’s how long, I will be your friend.” Suddenly, at the age of thirty, this song has meaning, as I fly home from Ohio, after spending seven glorious days with old friends.It began Thursday, when I met January and her grandmother, Fran, for Mexican food. Fran helped deliver me (you know, from my mother’s womb); she is one of my mom’s very best friends. When Jan and I met years ago in Charleston, South Carolina, we developed a similar, unbreakable friendship that I often miss miles away from her in Phoenix. We got drunk that night at the Village Idiot in downtown Maumee. We talked as though not a day had passed since our last meeting (when her husband stripped for me at my bachelorette party, in fact). Yet, no amount of time spent together feels long enough when I leave Jan.
Friday—somewhat hung-over, thanks to ill-advised Jager Bombs the night before—I received a Reiki treatment from Lisby, a friend of my Aunt Susie, who I consider to be instant Zen. Spending time with Lisby is like spending time with a huge dose of Xanax, minus the sleepy side effects. I consider her a surrogate auntie. Speaking of aunties, I spent the rest of the day and night with Susie, shopping (because we always shop when we’re together), eating way too much food, and cackling over cocktails. Susie, who was my Maid of Honor (“SOMOH,” to clarify: Sexy Old Maid of Honor) is my oldest, best friend, having known me since birth. She wins that medal, always will.Saturday was an amazing blur. First, I floated in a pond with childhood pal Vicki, my old comrade from youth church choir at Grace Methodist. We did the usual girl thing: talk about relationships and books. Vicki and I always talk about books. She is one of my funniest girlfriends—a woman with the power to make me laugh even in the direst of circumstance. I hate that she lives so far away, because frankly, I could use her sense of humor a lot more often in Phoenix.
Then, it was off to the Polish American Festival with Janine and her husband Ben. Janine was my first roommate post-college, when we were both single and known for wearing corsets to Toledo bars. Again, it felt as if no time had passed as we caught up on life and her current “Baby Fever.” Even when I took a tumble and crushed my knee (thank you, high-heeled shoes), she was there to pick me up and laugh—because what else can you do when a friend makes a complete idiot of herself? Pick her up, brush her off, and laugh her through the pain.Sunday the drive to Hocking Hills began. Four friends from elementary school (and a recent, welcome addition) met at a cabin in the woods: Emmy, Julie, Katie (better known as “Weaver”), and Katie Lamb. Through the hiking, strawberry daiquiris, episodes of Sex and the City, and hot tub adventures, we partook in the annual rekindling of our long-standing group relationship, once known as “The Big Boy Gang.” We’re all married now, and Julie is pregnant. Despite these seemingly adult accomplishments, while hiking Conkle’s Hollow, we still ran around like little kids. We still hunkered down in the grass at 2 AM to watch the stars. We still remembered what it felt like to spend every summer together, and for a moment, we were those high school girls wearing sports bras and glitter at the Perrysburg High School football games.
I had to make a stop in Athens on the way back to Perrysburg to see my alma mater, Ohio University, and Caruso, my brother’s best friend from college and my adopted sibling. We met for lunch at Casa Nueva. We argued over movies and TV. We marveled over the fact that my brother is finally in a healthy, happy relationship. We did a circle around downtown Athens and across college green. I didn’t want to leave, and I got a little choked up when I gave Caruso one last hug before hitting the road.The final night I spent with my mom, my Aunt Susie, and Carol, Susie’s best friend and someone I consider to be family—another surrogate auntie. Although my dad joined us for dinner, he eventually had to escape the girl talk. Good thing, too, because we ended up skinny dipping in Carol’s neighbor’s pool while the sun was still up, because frankly, why not?
I have so many old friends, each different, special, and important in his or her own way. I have friends I’ve known since the age of ten (the Hocking Hills gang) and friends like Jan, who I didn’t meet until my mid-twenties. It goes back to that Girl Scout song: “You have one hand, I have the other. Put them together, we have each other. You help me, and I’ll help you, and together we will see it through.”
My trip home to Ohio was like paging through an emotional rolodex of good times, hard times, and the friends that have been there for both. I hope they will always be there, because old friends bring out the best in all of us. They also remind us of who we once were, because let’s face it: we’ve all lived several lives in the course of this one life. It’s good to remember where we’ve been. Old friends help us do that. It’s also good to remember where we’re going, and well, old friends help us get there.