There's something about the friends you've had since childhood that penetrates the core of your psyche in a unique and powerful way. I've always prioritized my friendships and staying in touch with people. Even before the internet, and certainly before social media, I was very intense about that. Maybe it was because I'm an only child, or social, or both. Whatever the reason, I'm still really close to people I've known since age 8 and even younger.
Two of those friends drove many hours just to spend an afternoon with me today, which is even more special because of Alaska's distance. My life feels very bifurcated, in that my adult life as a parent and my adult relationships are in Alaska, and my past life and childhood will always be on the east coast.
Weird thought: when you're two days old, you're twice as old as the day you were born. Think about being in grades 1-12. 12 years is not nearly as significant an amount of time to an adult as it is to a child, because it's so much more of a child's life relative to how long they've lived. And that's why what happens in those years, when you're a developing human, matters so much. And childhood friendships are a huge part of that.
These are the friends who know you like no one else ever can or will, simply because the opportunity to be known in that particular way has passed. These are the friends whose paths crossed with yours because of decisions the adults in charge of your lives made, like where to live and where to send you to school or for the summer; but who hurtled along with you on that happy, sad, awkward, and often terrifying journey of childhood and adolescence.
They were in those universal trenches of development with you. They know your families of origin, and often their secrets. You've spent hours in each other's childhood bedrooms talking about nothing. They were part of your stupid mistakes. You made each other laugh until you almost peed your pants--it's rarer to laugh that way as an adult, isn't it? You cried with each other over breakups and took road trips with the same mix tape stuck in the tape deck of your busted car. You didn't realize how free you were, because you were so busy just trying to grow up.
Stephen King (one of my favorite writers) put it so accurately and so poignantly at the end of the novella Different Seasons, better known for its film adaptation, Stand By Me:
"I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?"