I had a post on tulips all ready to go this morning, but I woke up thinking about friends and decided to save the tulips until another day. Entering the blogosphere means that you will soon acquire a bunch of new "friends" -- but will any of them become real friends? And where do true friends come from? It seems to me that they fall into a couple of groups.
The Proximity Friend: Many people fall into this category -- the elderly neighbor you pass last week's People magazine to, the folks you wave to when you volunteer at the dog shelter, the barista at Peet's who asks about your children by name, the forum friend who's helping you with the new hobby you'll be dropping next week. Because these friendships are dependent on your both being in the same place at the same time, when you're no longer there, these friends likely will not be either. But they occasionally blossom into "Volunteer Friends," see below.
The Comrade-in-Arms: Work friends, church friends, parents on the PTA -- these people you know for a long time, and you fight the good fight together, raging against the administration or management, strategizing to get a new procedure put into place or an event to happen, sharing the latest gossip about this one or that one. These people can be good friends for years (especially if you rarely change jobs), but unless you make the leap to sharing things that go beyond the particular venue, when the long hours you spend together are curtailed, your friendship is likely to be curtailed too.
The Volunteer Friend: No, these are not people who sidle up to you to say "Can I be your friend?" They are friends that take you by surprise -- you know how when you spread compost in a garden, and then some time later, you see something sprouting that turns out to be a random, beautiful "Love-in-a-Mist"? Those are garden "volunteers," and volunteer friends are those that emerge surprisingly in a place you never imagined, but you suddenly find yourself really, really liking this person and wanting to know them better. They can be a forum friend that you wind up traveling to meet and spending the weekend laughing with (after ascertaining that neither of you is an axe murderer), or the person who comes to design your garden and spread the compost and becomes so much more . . . (you know who you are, Jana). Because they are so unexpected, these friends are treasures.
The Dear Friend: These people enrich your life; they have moved beyond the category of "just a friend" to something much more meaningful. They are there when you call; they listen; they commiserate; they say "Just let me grab my purse," when you want to go to the new museum exhibit; they send you an email about the great book they're reading; you're invited to their children's weddings, even if you don't know their child that well, because they want you to share the happiness. These friends are the constants that give a life its shape and help make it worth living.
The Friend-of-the-Heart: These friends are extremely rare, and because of that, in a way, the most precious. You may not see them very often -- in fact, years may go by before you actually meet, though in the days of the internet, you may be in contact. These are the people who have known you since you were in 7th grade, your first real friend in the world, your college roommate, the people who know you warts and all because they were with you at a time when life was intense (adolescence, young adulthood), when you were unformed and vulnerable and went around with all nerves exposed. You shared things with them that you may not have ever told your spouse or partner about; you laughed until your sides split, practiced kissing on spoons in case anyone ever asked you on a date, sprawled on the bed together reading Lady Chatterley's Lover to each other, watched reruns of Star Trek while munching on Screaming Yellow Zonkers. Hearing the first few bars of a song can bring flooding back a time you shared with these friends. With these friends, it doesn't matter how much time you've spent apart or how much grey you have in your hair now -- when you are together, the years fall away, and there's an intimacy you have with few people in the world outside of family (and maybe not even with them, in a way). These are friends that never, ever leave your heart.
Here are some tulips anyway, two tulips for all friends, old and new and yet-to-be.
[Thanks to Flypaper Textures]