When I was in the second grade, my best friend was Paul W. We hung out each and every day. We talked – we didn’t play on the playground: Paul, Holly, and I would take her boombox (which dates me right there) out into the field beyond the jungle gym and the swings and the running children and sit there and listen to music and talk. We were eight. I was an odd child – and Paul was a bit odd with me: we were old inside young bodies. The next year, he and his family moved to Indiana. I was crushed, devastated – I bought him some trinkets to remember me by, and I cried every night. It was horrid.

After that, I had a series of girl friends, but none of them matched that relationship. On into high school, I formed friendships within a group of girls that lasted into my mid-twenties. They had jobs and babies: I was in college. At get togethers, they’d sit around the table man-bashing while their men stood in the garage drinking beer and having man talk. I played with the kids – I found the conversation more stimulating. As time wore on, I just didn’t fit there anymore. When I got divorced, inexplicably, all those friendships came to a screeching halt – and I suppose I should have mourned them. In a way, I did – a part of me mourned the fact that I took a different path, and had to wave goodbye to the companions I’d had for such a long time on my journey. I think of them and our times together fondly. I wonder how they are. I hope that they’re doing well.

Preceding my divorce (from my ex-husband and soon-to-be ex-friends), I started forming friendships with girls in my college classes – some were fleeting meetings of the mind and heart, others sank deeper roots and continue to grow.

In the past two years, even those relationships have shifted and changed. I’ve discontinued association with wide swaths of people, and I’ve welcomed newer friends into my life and heart.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – all these shifts and changes, all these goodbyes and welcomes. Today, I bid adieu to a friend who’s going off and away on a grand adventure – I said goodbye with joy for her new horizons, and a small dollop of the bittersweet, because she’s leaving. Later, I gathered with newer (and wonderful friends who I’ve been blessed to have come into my life), and we got to talking about this. One of them called it “pruning the friend garden,” and said that it’s sometimes necessary. I’ve talked to Dani about this, too – and she says that really, “the struggle is that there’s no struggle [in letting them go], and that this makes us wonder what kind of people we are to let go so easily.” They’re both right (totally unsurprised by that).

I’m grateful for all the companions that life and fate has seen fit to bring my way, to all those who walked down any stretch of my path with me. I find myself deeply grateful for the newest group who’ve entered my life – my relationships with them remind me of my friendship with Paul. That I can just sit there and be. That we can say so much without saying a lot. That I can speak pretty freely, and they get it. That they ask me how I am, and actually want to know (instead of asking to ask, and then hurrying to what’s going on for them … and staying with that for the duration).

I wonder about Paul. Is he married now? Does he have kids? If we lay side by side in a field and gazed at the sky, would we have the communion that we once did? I’m sentimental tonight, and while letting go of things that no longer fit feels good, there’s a little bit of grief sneaking in there, too.

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