“Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver and the other gold.”

  — Joseph Parry

Yesterday I had a wonderful surprise.  An old friend surfaced after forty years, and we compared  notes — compared lives — and rediscovered our friendship.  Silver, gold, and occasionally a diamond.

” A circle is round; it has no end.  That’s how long I will be your friend.”

Sally and I first met when our husbands were students at the same university.  We were young mothers; and along with a whole tribe of others, we lived in a married student apartment complex.  Our section was a square with a row of two-story apartments on each side.  A shared balcony upstairs and a shared sidewalk downstairs were our walkways, and a grassy lawn sat in the middle of the quadrangle.  It was there that we brought our children to play and ourselves to commiserate as we grew into our mother roles and supported our men in attaining their goals.  When one of us fell, the others were there to pick up the pieces.  When long hours at the library made for absent spouses, we banded together as women have since the dawn of time — opening our hearts, sharing our hopes, our fears, and our dreams.  For four years we all were sisters in that surreal and encapsulated world of higher learning and poverty.  And then it was done.

I left first, caught up in the turmoil of a difficult marriage and isolated from most people who loved me.  The life I moved to was all-consuming, and soon I lost touch with my sister-friends from the years when I turned over childhood to my sons and became an adult.

Years passed.  There were sorrows and joys, births and deaths, divorces and marriages; and while all of this was going on, I sometimes would think of those old friends who had been so instrumental in helping me find my way to true adulthood.  I found a couple of them, but never could locate Sally.  I didn’t know that her last name had changed — all I knew was that she had disappeared.

Two days ago, I sat in a sweaty gym, watching my favorite oldest granddaughter play basketball.  My phone chimed with a message alert, and I found a name and address scanned by my eldest son.  “Do you know this person?” he asked.  “Should I?”  The name sounded vaguely familiar, but I just couldn’t place it — maybe a classmate of his from long ago?  Next he scanned the entire letter, complete with identifying information about time and place and the name of her daughter.  “Yes! I know her!”  She had found my son, whose last name had not changed, and taken the time to write him a letter and ask for help in finding me.  There was a phone number, too, and I could hardly contain my excitement as I hurried home to make the call.  NO!  An answering machine!  I left a brief message, “Congratulations!  You found me!  Now you have my number on your caller ID.  Talk to you soon!”  As I hung up, my very wise granddaughter observed, “what if she doesn’t have caller ID?”  Aarrgh!  She could be right.

The next day I began calling, trying to figure out the right time to reach someone with an unknown schedule who lives two time zones away.  At last, toward early evening, I heard a familiar voice on the other end of the line.  And we talked.  And we talked some more.  I can only speak for myself when I say that there were things shared that made me teary and others that had me laughing with delight.  Each of us had taken a rocky path through life that sometimes knocked us to the ground.  Each of us had caught our breath and stood up again when we fell.  Each of us acknowledges that it was the scrapes and bruises that healed into wisdom and strength and brought us to a place where every day is a blessing and we know for certain who we are.

I think back to those early days of our friendship and realize that as we scrambled to grow up, we learned together the skills we later used to stand tall in the face of adversity.  Words just don’t seem to be enough to express the joy my heart felt hearing that my friend had made it through the fire and through the storm and had found a life that was not only good, but great.  You probably have guessed that our present lives are quite parallel.  We are kindred spirits — probably more than we were in the trenches of student housing.  As we said our good-byes, I found myself smiling that wild and unfettered smile that always comes to my face when I meet another member of my tribe.  I wonder what challenges each of us was facing at the times when we would remember one another and try to find each other.  I wonder whether some connection in the energy of the universe sent those loving vibrations right to the scene of the struggle and gave us that little prod that said, “you can do this — stand up!”

Make new friends.  Keep the old.  And if there is a diamond from your past who has disappeared from your life, never give up.  Keep trying to find her.  She may be your sister, a member of your tribe.