Sunday, 15 January 2012

Dinner for two

We talk almost constantly, as we struggle out of coats and scarves and take our seats either side of the wooden table. It's a couple of months since we last met up so there's plenty to catch up on, but as we each pick up one of the oversized menus to choose our food, I'm momentarily side-tracked by thoughts of childhood friends. I don't ever remember going out for a meal as a child, not even with family; the very idea that anyone back then would have suggested an outing involving dinner makes me smile.

I think of a time when friends were just there, wherever you happened to be; sitting next to you at school, running alongside you round the field by the bin-sheds down the flats, standing beside you peering into the muddy ripples of the river in Belair Park. In the days before mobile phones, in a world where ballet lessons and after-school activities were something other people did, there wasn't any planning or scheduling involved; it just happened.

Conversations were about the people and the situations you all knew; your teacher, the girl in class whose Dad hit her with his belt, whether or not you were really going to kiss Terry Jackson. Friends changed quickly, you fell out and fell back in again and a 'best friend' was more a state of mind than a matter of fact, but friendship itself was a constant.

I don't know when it started to change, perhaps it was when we all left school to go off in different directions. After that, families and relationships, new jobs and places to live, there were so many reasons why keeping friends suddenly became 'keeping in touch'; why constant became intermittent.

Yet the first half of our evening follows a defined pattern, as we each share news of our other halves and homes, of ex-colleagues in common, of current work burdens and future holiday plans. Conversation flows, it's collaborative and comforting, but then as the plates are being cleared, I realise there's been something in the tenor of our talk that's changed. When I've spoken about holidays, it's been less about future adventures and more about the places I might never get to see. We've made reference to failing eyesight and aching limbs, I've even mentioned retirement.

Then comes the moment when I lean forward to make a confession. But it's no tale of infidelity or misbehaviour, no shocking scandalous gossip,

"I've bought a new pillow."

Almost as soon as the words leave my mouth, I realise the mistake, I'm already cataloguing myself as an old woman.

But then she smiles and offers up her own secret.

"I've got an electric blanket."

And then I remember that thing about friendship; about finding things in common, having a partner in crime, and I realise that maybe times haven't changed that much at all.

39 comments:

Rob said...

I can relate. Very enjoyable post!

Matt Inwood said...

Beautiful. I was with my oldest friend only last weekend. We see each other so rarely. Each time there is that little moment of revealing one thing or another during/after which I (shamefully) think I shouldn't have let that go -- something so dull, perhaps -- only for that dear friend to receive it so generously, reciprocate with something equally grey later! Each of us so comfortable with the everyday despite an absence of so many, many, many days in between our get-togethers.

BarkyMag said...

Lovely. That is true friendship.

steven said...

i'm meeting up with my oldest friend this week. it's the first time i've seen her in a very long time and i'm so excited to hear her stories and to tell her mine. the little and the large. the silly and the profound. they all have a place in a good friendship sharon!!! steven

Rossland said...

"finding things in common, having a partner in crime"
That is what now I miss: someone to talk about our similar crime .
Not very easy to find in my adult age. Very Interesting post...

Debbie said...

Great post. I can relate to the 'old woman' part. Only this afternoon I was talking with a work colleague about the shoes we were wearing, about how comfortable our Clarks were. :)

Jennifer said...

I really loved this. This is probably one of my favorites from you, at least for the new year. So well put.

Even at this age, I notice the same thing happening with my friends and I.

theplantgardener said...

I think this is my favourite post of yours to date. I instantly was thinking of a conversation with a friend that went very similarly. Thank you. I really enjoyed it and have sent a link to my friend too!

Susan Cooper said...

That is such a great subject to write about. It evokes so many memories of friends, now and from along ago. We all need someone to talk to, that will not judge and will except us just as we are. Just before the holidays I had written about a loss of my best friend titled "Of The I Know". This brought that and her to mind. :-), Susan Cooper

Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

Great post, a most enjoyable read, typical of life--as life actually goes, not as one may imagine it will in earlier days. Reality speaks comfortably.

IReadTooMuch said...

This post puts such a smile on my face. It was just last night that I watched a movie that made me think of my bestie, whom I have known for the better part of two and half decades. After the movie was over I promptly texted her with the simple words "thinking of you" and in my heart longing for that next time I will see her (she lives almost two thousand miles away) and we can pick our conversation up where we left it.

Bill Dameron said...

So true. How I loved spending days with my friends at the pool, in the creek exploring. We didn't plan or schedule. No Facebook, iPods or smart phones.

But without all of this technology, how would I have ever began reading stories about a woman from Otford, Kent whose stories seem so familiar and so comforting?

Whirlochre said...

How I'm waiting to laugh about mutual erectile dysfunction and imminent decay with my telepathic chum of 40 years.

We'll chuckle our teeth and tubes out, yes we will.

The Elephant's Child said...

I have been friends with one woman for more than thirty years now. We have shared excitements, joys and tragedies. She commented only today that through all that we still laugh - often inappropriately, but it is a wonderful thing to share.

The Idiot Gardener said...

I remember a few years back sitting in a pub with a lad I grew up with, and we found ourselves talking about mortgages. It was a horrible moment, and one that resulted in us getting trashed and going to a strip club!!!

whynotpat said...

I enjoyed reading your post. Time and technology is inevitable yet nothing is more resilient than a beautiful friendship. Often my friends and I can talk about 3 different topics at the same time without losing track. It's like automatically knowing the dynamics of one another.

Dicky Carter is... said...

Excellent piece as always Sharon. I love that your imply that the older we get the less we talk about the future, more about the past and ailments. By the way, did anyone actually kiss Terry Jackson?

Hillary said...

I love that second paragraph, Sharon. That was how my childhood felt. Unsheduled - most of my after-school "enrichment" came from nature.

Everyone seems to have their nose in a phone now - even the smallest among us - not seeing what their kids are doing, not noticing the blue sky or the birds or the really brilliant sunset or the squirrel about to jump on their head...well, well. I could go on about this forever, so I won't.

You always give us a charming little slice of your life to savor, and I for one am very appreciative.

Marsha said...

Calling a friend a "partner in crime" was excellent. It captures the essence of friendship, especially of friendships from childhood. I think that is what one misses most in friends once one grows older. Very, very nice piece of writing.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Yes, as our lives change, keeping friends does mean "keeping up." For a time, I didn't realize how much time was passing without keeping up, and how easy it would be to lose touch entirely. It's well worth making a special effort, because that special connection is a treasure.

Nessa Roo said...

Very nice. Of course you realize, getting old is a crime, so you might as well drag along a partner for it.
Your writing is just beautiful.

Baglady said...

This is just lovely. I love the minutae of school life back then, the way those trivial things were everything.

I especially liked "but then she smiles and offers up her own secret". Those shared secrets, the moments of connection, are so much of what being human is about.

Liz said...

"I've bought a new pillow."

That just made me smile.

supermac said...

And now I miss my childhood best friend.

Joe Pereira said...

As we journey through life we gather more and more memories and experiences, to the point we have so much of the past to talk about we don't bother with the future. The opposite of childhood.

Beautifully written, Sharon.

Cle Reveries said...

Very interesting subject, indeed.
It’s fantastic to meet old friends and discover that nothing is changed in our relationships.
When we are children it is easy to make friends, live the same adventures, comparing them with each other's and finding that we are similar to them, our aims are projected in our friends ones. Friendship is the best sentiment of human beings, but it’s very difficult for adults.

Sharon Longworth said...

It's smashing to get such a lovely bunch of comments - thank you.
I'm also relieved to say, that the lovely friend I wrote about here, has read this piece and laughed at it and with it.

Rob - I seem to have struck a chord with a few people! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Matt - if I could sum up the two things I like best about my friends, I'd say it's generosity and reciprocity, and that they make me laugh. Hold on, that's 3 things - anyway, I know I'm lucky to have them.

BarkyMag - indeed, true friendship

Steven - I hope your meeting with your old friend was / is brilliant! I wonder if the experience will turn into a poem at some point?

Sharon Longworth said...

Rossland - whatever age we are, I still think we need someone to misbehave with, or at least laugh at our mistakes with!

Debbie - ah, the comfort of Clarks' shoes... Right up there with big pants...

Jennifer - thank you so much!

theplantgardener - I'm so glad you enjoyed this. And very flattered that you sent a link to your friend - thank you.

Suman said...

I love how you describe childhood and the ever changing collection of best friends. Lovely!

Linda Myers said...

Oh, lovely!

Sharon Longworth said...

Susan - thank you so much. I hope the memories were happy ones.

Raymond - thank you. I wonder if there are any people out there for whom life goes just as they expected?

IReadtoomuch - isn't it great that you can just pick up where you left off - makes thousands of miles seem like almost nothing.

Bill - ah yes - simplicity had its attractions, but being able to talk to and read about people all over the world is something I never even imagined as kid.

Whirlochre - what a brilliant comment "We'll chuckle our teeth and tubes out, yes we will" has got me chuckling right now!

Sharon Longworth said...

The Elephant's child - inappropriate laughter is my favourite!

The Idiot Gardener - I'm resisting sensible grown-up conversations as much as I can!

whynotpat - I love it when conversations all bubble and flow, overlapping with different topics and comments, but still keeping a sense of direction.

Dicky - I'm trying to put a limit on the ailment-related talk! And as for Terry Jackson - there may have been a game of kiss-chase, but I'm not planning to kiss and tell.

Hillary - thank you. I'm glad you liked this, and really appreciate you coming back to read my 'slices of life'

Sharon Longworth said...

Marsha - thank you! I hope you have your own partner in crime.

Blissed out Grandma - I found out the wrong way how easy it is to lose touch. I'm still not the best at it now, but I am trying...

Nessa Roo - well, if getting old is a crime, I'd better start enjoying my illicit future!

Baglady - shared secrets are the best!

Liz - thank you - ridiculous but true!

Sharon Longworth said...

supermac - oh dear!

Joe - I like the idea of memories crowding out thoughts of the future - so much nicer than thinking that there isn't much of a future to think about. Thank you.

Cle Reveries - I've never thought of it like that, but yes, I think I agree - friendship is the best sentiment.

Suman - thank you!

Linda - and my thanks to you too!

Young at Heart said...

there is little to beat conversations with a good friends.....and even better if you can share your aging aches and pains without fear of revult. One of the worst parts of losing my childhood best friend last year was remembering so vivdly the misdemeanors, the parties, the competitve plans we'd make for the fab lives we would lead...... she'd done so well and had such a beautiful family....and then she finished first.....

elaine rickett said...

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Lizzie said...

What a lovely thing to write about- And so very true. Very nostalgic.

Pat said...

A lovely post. Made me a little sad when I remember my Christmas card list has shrunk this year but happy when I remember two dear friends I have had since I was aged two and - D.V. still going strong.

Sharon Longworth said...

Young at heart - I'm so sorry for your loss; but glad you have some lovely memories.

Elaine - how very kind of you - thank you. I'll be over for a visit shortly.

Lizzie - thank you!

Pat - I can't believe you've got a friend who's been around since you were two - that must be marvellous.
I only have one friend I keep in touch with from schooldays - such a shame that I let too many people go, too easily.