There are a lot of ways to look at initiation. The Online Merriam-Webster defines:
: the process of being formally accepted as a member of a group or organization : the process of being initiated
: a ceremony or series of actions that makes a person a member of a group or organization
I grew up hearing “We only seem to get together at weddings and funerals.” Now I’m at an age where I truly appreciate how weddings, funerals and this last weekend christenings do provide an opportunity to bring people together.
The grandparents of one of my daughters best friends from childhood died in a fire Thanksgiving weekend. They were also neighbors and the kids spent many summers playing in their pool. The funeral provided many glimpses into they dynamics of “old friends.”
The girls are at an age where they are just starting to move away from the people they’ve grown up with. They are off at school or starting their careers. They’re no longer spending the day together and then rushing to text or talk again on the phone as soon as they are apart. They make a point to check in over holiday weekends, “When are you coming home for winter break?”
Several of their close childhood friends took different roads. They’ve already lost touch or “stopped speaking” to each other, which often means unfriending on Facebook. It’s not that the gossip ring isn’t still active. We still hear that this girl has gotten engaged or that one has a new college boyfriend.
The Mom of one of the girls my daughter is “no longer speaking to” said, “I miss having the girls over. At my new apartment I have never found rock hard marshmallows under the cushions.” My daughter said it was really nice to see her friend’s Mom and that she would have been happy to just smile and wave at the friend. But she also noted that having her friend come over and chat was almost like when they were kids. “She was nice to me again. (Probably because her boyfriend wasn’t there.)”
The grandparents who died had lived in the neighborhood over 50 years. So has my neighbor across the street. She was very sad. For her this is the end of an era. They weren’t necessarily close friends but they lived in a time when everyone knew their neighbors and counted on them. They have been old friends. I suppose I am too. I’ve lived across the street for 20 years. We talk at the mailbox. Maybe I should stop in and invite her to go for a walk.
The christening was for the son of one of the boys I used to babysit for when I was a teen. I did ‘summer in-home day care’ along with almost every other Friday night. My sister would sub for me when I was busy. The Mom was one of my mother’s best friends. They grew up and I went off to college but would occasionally find an excuse to spend the day together. Lost track of them when I started having kids and they went away for college.
I’ve kept in touch with the older brother over the years, although it’s definitely a long distance relationship. I’ve reconnected fairly recently with the younger brother and his wife. Picking up right where we left off. Haven’t seen the Mom and her new husband in at least 20 years.
With the new baby my Mom and their Mom had an excuse to reconnect. A congratulatory phone call was made. Photos were sent with a letter in the mail. There’s a lot of water under the bridge, but they’re still old friends. Me too. I sat with the family at the christening. Grandma handing me her camera to take a picture introduced me as an old friend of the family and a newly published author. We’re old friends.
The boys embrace me into the family as well. Their partners treat me like the favorite auntie. They all brag on our old friendship and tell me they are ever so grateful that I could attend. I’m the one who’s grateful. I’m lucky to have so many old friends. I just wish I’d get to see them more often than at weddings and funerals and christenings and reunions. 🙂