I got lost in my photo archives yesterday, chasing the ghost of Independence Days past. One minute I was trying to gather snapshots from across the years that we’ve been celebrating the Fourth of July as a family, the next, I was falling down a rabbit hole, past all the faces we’ve ever counted near and dear.
It was like watching a film reel cranked backwards. Teenagers turning back into toddlers. Mid-lifers returning to youth. Divorced people returning to marriages. The dead returning to life. Close friends turning back into casual acquaintances, and casual acquaintances turning back into close friends.
It made me realize that as much as we have grown and changed as a family, so has our circle of friends. A few of those changes have been abrupt, and some have been wrenching. Occasionally, someone has dropped out of our lives altogether, beyond even the outer ring of “Facebook-only friends.” But mostly they just happened. Circumstances change. Interests shift. The spirograph wheel turns, and spins us to a new intersection.
As I get older, it becomes easier to accept the changing circle of friends with equanimity. When you’re young, everything is forever, or it’s nothing at all. My expectations have become more realistic. I used to think a good friendship had to be based on total mutual acceptance and unwavering affection. Either you “got” all of me, loved me unconditionally, and were there for me all the time, or we weren’t good friends. I now realize that any friend who fits that description is not a good friend, but a best friend. And that having one or two of those friendships at a time is as much as most people can hope for, or nurture.
Today, I know how blessed I am to have even a couple of such enduring, all-encompassing relationships at the center of my life (one being with my husband). I accept the rotation of the wider circle, the turning of friendship’s seasons, as a natural cycle. The pattern of hearts in motion. Looking back, I see how my circle of friends has not been an enclosure–where people put their whole selves in or take their whole selves out– but an open constellation of points of intersection between our lives. Ordered by a few constants. Illuminated by all who pass through.