On friendships: what makes 'em click?

"So I guess your mom's not delivering crack babies anymore?" Sean and I had some catching up to do since we'd last seen each other 12 years ago. Across the Baltimore hotel room my sister cuddled her baby, and the three of us shared one of those laughs that remembers way more than what's just been uttered.

His joke referenced his declaration, the first time he saw the home I then shared with my parents, "I think there are crack babies being born around here somewhere!" It took off from there, as such jokes often do, and this week was the first time in years that I'd thought about that particular spin on a house I haven't been inside of in a very long time. It was a huge, old creaky place not entirely unlike the house seen in Amityville Horror, positioned on a busy street down which all manner of people used to wander.

Those first laughs and the familiarity that followed during our Baltimore reunion made me question again why we'd "stopped being friends" all those years ago. He was a work buddy and for a time we were together so often that colleagues who didn't know us very well thought we were dating. We weren't, but the friendship was very fine indeed, for a while. In the end, of course, it was a collection of factors that sent us off in different directions. Our job descriptions changed and we didn't work in such close proximity as before. Both of us have exceptionally unpredictable attention spans. In our early twenties then, no doubt the distractions of other interesting people - of other intriguing social opportunities - drew us away. And in the manner of some young people, I think we were also careless, at times, with each other's feelings. There was a lot of excitement to be had...we were a lively pair with active imaginations and great curiosities. Sometimes such a combination has a detrimental affect on a friendship.

There's something else, though. It's been years since my first realization that we can't remain close to every single person we ever cared about. Not if we're going to maintain any semblance of balance and rhythm and be contributing members of society. And much as the warm fuzzies envelop us when we reconnect with long, lost pals, we can't go back, either. Which, I suppose, is another good reason for living life fully, in the moment, and letting it be what it is. No matter what comes later.

Here's the thing, though. A while later, when the conversation had turned to writers the three of us find important, and publications that reflect our common ideals, it occurred to me that we've both grown in directions that are in ways quite similar. It's possible we had more in common when our friendship began than we could have known. I certainly don't recall having many such conversations back then as we sped through drama after drama, whipping along in this whirlwind of social flurry that involved other friends we've both moved on from, and roadtrips and dancing and parties. Then, neither of us had completed college degrees yet. Then, we were barely starting to explore the ideas that would propel us into the adults we were becoming. Now we've both calmed a bit, each understanding a bit more about ourselves and what that even means. It was among the most enjoyable evenings I've spent in a long time.

When he left, he said, "I'll visit you in Greensboro." I know at the time he meant it as I did when I responded that I hoped he would. I still hope he will. But this morning when I'm contemplating the nature of friendships, I know it'll be just fine either way. Because he's returned to his full life in DC and I've returned to a town in which another friend called me on my way home to say, "Will you help me entertain my Guatemalan guests next Friday night? You're the best co-host I can think of!" and another drove with me to my storage building yesterday and helped me unload all that festival booth "stuff," even though there are far more interesting ways to entertain one's self on a Friday afternoon, and yet another shared her excitement two nights ago, in letting me be among the first to see the new direction one of her artistic outlets is pointing her. And so many others I didn't know 12 years ago continue to bring such layers of value to my current life.

Whether or not Sean and I schedule personal visits, this time together catching up on the events of more than a decade left me with something I also value. The knowledge that this friendship, reopened with the help of an Internet we couldn't have properly imagined back then, still has a solid foundation. Regardless of what form it takes in the future, this morning's reflections tell me what's most important is simply that it still remains. And if you can hold on to the friends who make you laugh, and with whom you can talk for hours, seems to me you've really got something.