On Friends from High School

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On Friends from High School


I’ve been thinking about friendship.

And it occurred to me that rather than friends coming into and leaving our lives, what really happens is that they rise or descend to different rungs of the friendship ladder. At times it’s a conscious decision – something happens, a word is said that brings us closer, or closes a door, or triggers a chasm. Other times, we assure ourselves that life, or the exigencies of time, is responsible, although we know, deep down, that it is always our choice.

Sometimes it is we who are relegated or raised, and if we slip down the ladder of someone who is special to us, it hurts, even if we understand. Other times it is we who decide, all the while convincing ourselves that we can resurrect that longstanding relationship when we have the time, or when we feel nostalgic.

I’ve experienced this from both sides, with a quantity of hurt, a fair amount of guilt, and, occasionally, relief.

But what is it about high school friends that makes them special, no matter what rung of the ladder they occupy?

I think that it is that they knew us when. When we were on the way to becoming ourselves, trying on the different hats of self, walking like Jackie Kennedy, wearing our hair like Audrey Hepburn, hanging out at the Hopkins campus, smoking cigarettes, sure that those handsome fraternity boys would think us collegians.

They knew us when. We knew each other’s parents, who are now memories in the minds of such a few. We sat at our kitchen tables drinking cokes and sneaking sips of bourbon from the liquor cabinet. We knew each other’s mothers, and wished ours were more like them. Those with glamourous mothers wished they were home bodies. Those whose mothers cooked and cleaned and sewed longed for mothers who wore silk lounging pajamas and smoked and drank martinis. Always wishing that our lives were just a bit different, it would take us years and heartaches before we learned to appreciate gifts given by our own mothers, and forgive them for being who they were. We can only wish for the same from our daughters.

I went to a small school, all girls, all of us scattered now, though there is a cadre who meet regularly for lunch, to keep up with one another, to support and cheer one another on. I see them on my rare returns to Baltimore.

And when I do, I am proud to be among their number. My high school friends…

cynthiaschaub.com, author of Another Sunday

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