John Holt wrote that he didn’t think it necessary for children to constantly be surrounded by other children and to have a large circle of friends. In fact he thought it was far better to have one or two close and carefully chosen friends.
In this he and I are in complete agreement.
Over my 44 years, I have developed and maintained only a few very close friends, and although there are times when I lament the fact that all but one of them live very far away, I wouldn’t trade them for a multitude of local casual ‘friendly’ acquaintances.
My dearest of friends lives the farthest away. We have known each other since I was 16 and she, 17. I knew we were going to be lifelong friends the day we were in my car, driving back from seeing a movie and our conversation hit a lull. Silence is something that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but after a couple of minutes in the quiet she said, “I think it’s really good when friends don’t always need to talk.” That’s not an exact quote, but close enough.
My friend is German, but because we began our relationship in the States, we usually speak English together. (I speak German, so we do have that option.) She knows all my family and I know hers. We’ve vacationed together, traveled together, spent holidays and birthdays together. I was with her when she got married and she was with me for Maya’s birth. When I was pregnant with Ben, she did the sonogram that told us he was a boy. (She is a doctor by profession.) Our children have known each other their entire lives.
All those things make our history, but they are not what make us as close as we are. That is defined by something else; by a trust and comfort that cannot be created. It just is. She and I don’t always agree but we never lash out. I know that I can say anything to her, no matter how politically incorrect or ‘wrong’ and she will not judge me harshly. I always tell people that I could wake her up with a phone call in the middle of the night to tell her I’d just committed murder and she would, in a very calm supportive voice, ask me if I was ok. Then ask me to tell her what happened. And I would do the same for her. There are no conditions to our friendship. I never have to worry that I have offended her by an offhand comment. She knows me better than that. There is no game playing, no one-upmanship, no competition. I can honestly confide in her about any problem and know that she will not immediately tell me how to solve it. She does not have all the answers, which is a relief. She does have an open mind, which is an even bigger relief.
The word to describe any time we spend together is ‘peaceful’. We laugh a lot, we talk book and movies and our lives. Our lives include our children but they are not an exclusive topic. Childrearing is understood and not debated or dissected. We’ve known each other far longer than either of us have known our husbands, and we are jokingly proprietary about this with them.
One of my great wishes for my children is that they each wind up with a friend like my Tina. There is no treasure worth more.