“Make new friends, but keep the old. Some of silver and the other, gold.” This was one of the songs we taught my Girl Scout troop many years ago. This week, I had the chance to be reminded of this as I attended the funeral of the mother of my college friend and the Bat Mitzvah of the daughter of my best friend from childhood.
When we got word from Amy that her mother had passed away, my friends Cheryl, Gail and I didn’t hesitate for a minute. “We’ll be there,” we all said and started making plans to head to Syracuse for the funeral. It was illogical—a four-hour drive each way for only a few hours in Syracuse, but it never occurred to us not to go. Although we hadn’t seen each other in several years, we started talking like we had never left off. They greeted me with surprise at my now lighter-than-brown hair color and we talked with the shorthand that a 25-year friendship brings. Most importantly, we were there to support our friend.
My kids had to make a few adjustments to their schedules that day, but they did it with the understanding of how special these friendships are to their mom and how important it was for me to be with Amy at this time. It’s nice for them to see enduring relationships like the ones I have with my college friends.
They got to see it again during our trip to Atlanta this past weekend. My family met the Feldsteins when we moved into the same neighborhood off Ridge Road in 1970-71. My brothers and I had a second home in the Feldsteins’ house and we knew so many of their friends and relatives. We celebrated holidays, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, big birthdays and small ones together.
And then there were the post-celebration leftover parties that were routine after any event. Judy Feldstein taught me to make chocolate chip cookies (so anyone who now enjoys those cookies at my house has Judy to thank!) and corn pancakes and Ed Feldstein was not only our Social Studies teacher and Religious School principal, but he ran the best birthday parties and Passover Seders. Besides growing up together in New City, I went to camp with their son, Jeff, and college with their son, Danny. Their daughter, Sue, and I have been friends since we were three years old and it was very important to me to be at her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.
My daughter was very excited for the trip, but my boys were a little reluctant to go—not because they didn’t want to be at the Bat Mitzvah, but because there was a lot they felt they were missing at home. Once there, I think it was very clear to them how deep the roots were between the two families. We hadn’t seen most of them in several years (so much so that they, too, expressed surprise at my lighter-than-brown hair color), but our kids just started playing together as we caught up on everything that was going on in our lives.
When people have known you as you grew up, there’s no artifice. They remember the person you were. There are so many common memories and shared experiences. One of the friends that was there expressed shock when she realized they had known the Feldsteins for 40 years—that’s a huge number. Another relative told us that he had gotten together with his cousins at a funeral recently and they all realized they enjoyed each other so much, they needed to make an effort to get together during the good times, too.
It’s so easy to put off visiting old friends. There’s always another baseball game, upcoming test or other social obligation. But it’s important sometimes to stop for a second or a weekend and make time to reconnect.
We have wonderful friends in New City and I hope my children have the chance to bring their kids to their family celebrations in 40 years. Because old friends truly are gold.