“‘Friendship might be free, but it requires a real investment.’” —Julie Klam
Recently I cleaned out a storage room I’ve had for more than a decade. The contents mainly consisted of stuff from my childhood and high school years that I couldn’t bear to part with: cards, letters, toys, etc. I also found my junior high and high school yearbooks, all dutifully signed by people that I either couldn’t remember or have lost touch with.
With the growing popularity of Facebook—something I’d resisted for years—we now have a way to get back in touch with the friends we’ve left behind, people we shared our youth with and who have many of the same memories of a particular time period as we do. Although we haven’t seen these people face-to-face in years, it’s comforting knowing that they’re there.
For instance, my friend Ken who shared his gold-plated Lightning Bolt necklace with me in seventh grade. Todd with whom I attended school since sixth grade and who was my date to our high school senior prom. And my best friend Joan, my partner-in-crime from the age of 12 until we graduated high school—and life took over.
Going through the boxes I found letters from my best friend from second grade, Christine, written after my parents moved me “only 45 minutes away.” When you can’t drive, 45 minutes is an eternity. Though we wrote every day and promised to be “sisters forever” our friendship would eventually become a casualty of being geographic undesirability.
In Judy Klam’s lastest book Friendkeeping: A Field Guide to the People You Love, Hate, and Can’t Live Without I found a kindred spirit—Ms. Klam lost her best friend Rebecca to a 30-minute drive—whose friendships seemed to follow a similar trajectory.
Using examples from her own friendship experiences, Ms. Klam puts a humorous spin on one of life’s most important necessities: “the need for like-minded people who listen and understand our woes, no matter how trivial.”
For the most part, it’s fairly recognized there is a hierarchy in the friendship realm. We have general acquaintances, work-only friends, friends of friends, and other miscellaneous people we meet along the way. Sadly even our deepest, most meaningful friendships can often become estranged. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to get them back—and sometimes we’re not.
Hanging on to tried and true friends is important for a number of reasons. As we age, making friends becomes more difficult, an issue that Ms. Klam illustrates with a combination of simplistic wisdom and subtle warning. Attempting to widen your circle of friends is a delicate operation. You might find someone who may look normal, but may actually be a maniacal American Girl doll collector, or worse—they could be the “human drain:” people who suck out your will to live as they endlessly discuss their own fabulousness—or the flipside: the woefulness they cannot seem to shake.
Ms. Klam further laments on how much easier life would be if adults could make friends the way a toddler does: find people who are approximately your height and Voilà! Instant friends. You wouldn’t even be required to speak with them, just squat close by and arbitrarily grab things out of their hands.
Friendkeeping is a reverential romp through the ghosts of friendship past, the life-affirming ones of our present, and the (hopefully sane) ones to come. And lurking just below the humor is an important message: Good friends are to be cherished.
In the words of Julie Klam, “Lasting friendships are kind of a miracle, but one that can’t be neglected . . . Friendship might be free, but it requires a real investment.”
Never have truer words been spoken.