Annie, my 34-year-old daughter, packed up her little family early one beautiful Sunday morning, much earlier than I was ready to get out of my pjs and come downstairs, to attend a friend’s housewarming party--in Vermont. That’s a three-hour road trip up and a three-hour trip back. I am still nosy enough to have inquired the night before: What’s the hurry to see them? Tony had been out of town for most of the week and they had been out all day Saturday. Wouldn’t a nice relaxing Sunday at home be just what the doctor ordered? I pressed further (I’m not only nosy, I can be downright persistent sometimes). “Why don’t you just tell them this weekend won’t work? Can’t you go up another time, maybe when you can spend the night?”
I got one of those looks. You know the look. The look comes when you’ve ventured way over the line and meddled too far into your child’s business, particularly your 34-year-old child. The look says, “Um...I’ve got this...stay out of it.” And most of the time I can. But, sadly, I had another question. “Annie, what’s so important that you have to go this weekend? They’re not moving out--they just moved in!” She answered as if she were trying to convince Luca to please eat his peas--exasperated, but trying to be patient: “Mom. These are the kind of friends that we really need to work at. They won’t understand if we don’t come.”
And there it was, right in front of my eyes. The generation gap, looming large. You’ll be happy to know, dear readers, that I did finally stay out of it. In fact, I stayed so far out of it, I stayed in bed Sunday morning while they bustled about trying to get out of the house on time. I had worked all day Saturday, so even though I was a little sorry to see them go, I was a little excited at the prospect of some alone time. And as I heard the car pull out of the driveway, I thought to myself, “thank god I don’t have friends I have to work so hard for.”
Friends now are people who won’t get mad at me for canceling because I’m wiped out. Because, honestly, they’re probably wiped out. We are at the age where getting together is fun, but getting out of getting together works, too. Attendance at a birthday or retirement party doesn’t get recorded as a measure of friendship. Often, not showing up when expected garners a concerned call or email. I don’t want to “work hard” at friendship and I suspect my friends don’t want me to either. Because they don’t want to.
Friendships after fifty are based on mutual respect and common interests. In my 30s, I am pretty sure I had friends that I felt I had to “work hard” at. Friends who had come into my life by way of the school my kids went to, the places I worked or people my husband was friends with, when I had one.
Just recently I invited a friend and her husband to join Angelo and me for an evening at a jazz concert. Even though I was looking forward to it (kind of...it was outside and the forecast was for blistering hot temperatures) when she emailed me the morning of the concert to tell me that she and her husband were going to beg off...it had been a long weekend and they needed some down time, I assured her it was fine. In fact, it sounded like such a good reason to me, I didn’t go either. Angelo and I stayed home, hung out on our shady porch and grilled outside. No black marks on either side of this friendship.
I tried to impart the wisdom I’ve gained on Annie’s Sunday plans, but she didn’t need my wisdom. This is her friendship to manage; they may stay friends forever (based on all that hard work, I hope so!) or theirs may wane with the passing years. That’s her business and definitely not mine. It’s a process of maturing that can’t get skipped over because that’s how we figure out who our friends are. If she needs help with this, she can ask her other friends. That’s what friends are for.