It’s interesting coming back to somewhere you’ve lived off and on for over 20 years. So many people know you, for better or worse. My parents moved to the very small town (near another little bit larger town where I bussed in to high school) to operate a country post office and 7to7/7 day a week store. Basically mum knew everyone in the district. When they sold that operation some years later, mum went to work at the local (only one at the time) real estate in the nearby town, and thus knew even more people from all over the place. After many years of that, she started at the local Community Centre (so now knows mostly people down on their luck, but anyway…).
I did Years 9-12 of high school here. Then, after five or so years away, came back and worked in one of the local pubs (the GOOD one, at the time!) while finishing my Grad Dip Ed externally. So *I* knew lots and lots of people too (not always from being at their best…). That was for about two years. Hubby and I moved back to another neighbouring town (another step up in population) a few years later, this time with a baby, and ran the local indoor sports/10 pin bowling centre while I taught at the local high school (interestingly, where I’d done my first prac for my Grad Dip a number of years before!). We moved to an even smaller small town for me to get ED QLD permanency about a year later, then back to the first small town almost two years after that, for a while.
So we’ve been around off and on for a long time – maybe nine or ten years in the district all up. At high school I had some really good mates who I kept in touch with for a long time. I was bridesmaid for one, and she for me. I attended a couple of their weddings. Another friend I made when working at the pub (she waitressed there) and I became good mates, and still are. However, time passes. One person I was really good mates with at school got married on the weekend and I only knew because I was friends on Facebook with his new bride. I’d run into him at his work in Toowoomba a couple of years ago, but despite seeing each other pretty regularly for a number of years after school (I used to stay at his house when in Toowoomba when I was visiting there), we’d lost touch. Lives diverge.
My best friend from high school (the bridesmaid) and I know have five kids between us. They were one family we definitely had to see when we came over, as we’ve known each other for so long and our kids are close in age and have known each other since not long after birth 🙂 But, y’know, while I love her dearly, and she is a wonderful person (a far better person than me, I think!), we really don’t have a lot in common. We probably never did, and except for the fact we were the only girls of our age in our small town, we probably would never have become such good friends in the first place. Small towns are funny like that. So we don’t talk much on the phone any more, and they don’t really email (although her hubby is on Facebook, which helps a bit), and when we get together, or talk on the phone, most of what we talk about is family. And that’s okay. But it’s not what we had as teenagers, when we shared everything, and were inseparable.
Lives diverge, people change, interests vary. It’s one reason why people who marry young sometimes have trouble after about ten years, because they’ve grown into different people from who they were when they were young. With friendships, it happens. And while it’s a little sad to realise that someone you spent practically every day with for four years is now no longer more than a peripheral part of your life, that’s okay too, because other people have come along who are friends with you now – the person you are now, who is, almost certainly, very different to the person you were then.
So while this friend will always be someone we keep in touch with, and make an extra effort to see when we come over east, I know that we’re not the friends we used to be (and yes, I HAVE known that for some time!). The friend I met at the pub is someone I have more to do with, but we’ve become friends as adults. And she is also excellent at being a friend. Very excellent (anyone who has been a bridesmaid nine times is clearly a good at being a friend – she wasn’t my bridesmaid, but that’s because I only had one).
Now, I have other friends who I adore. And who I have so much in common with. Humour, work, publishing, editing, spec fic, kids – whatever combination of things that make us friends, they are the people with whom I match now, at this point in my life. Interestingly, there are a whole bunch of people at my work who I "gel" with incredibly – some sort of synergy that has brought a lot of like-minded, like-humoured people together at the same place at the same time. And the friends I have met in small press over the past several years are huge in my life, many of them who are of course real-life friends now, not disembodied e-friends. And even those disembodied e-friends are often closer than those in real-life (and were particularly important a couple of years ago when I was living in a place where I didn’t HAVE any like-minded people around!
Life changes, and moves on. Most of the people we’re catching up with here are family friends. I’ve made special effort to catch up with a few people who I was really good mates with for whatever reason when we last lived here (one work, and a couple of sporting friends who we knew well), but primarily, the people we’re seeing are those who saw me grow up, and have a grandparent-ish interest in my kids. Family connections are most important when thinking about the old days apparently. While I still have fond memories of a lot of close friends I’ve had over my life, I’m not obsessed with keeping touch with them just to keep the past alive. I don’t need to. I want to know them still, because they are good people and I know them well – at least, I know who they *were* and I hope that’s enough to maintain acquaintances now. But as time goes on, and people drift away, I know that’s just another part of life. I’ve been fortunate to have them be a big part of my life, and I’m extremely fortunate in my friends today. I cherish that.