Monday, December 6, 2010

On the Rarity of Familiarity

I spent most of the day yesterday blessed by an uncommonly beautiful merging of two worlds, introducing new family to old friends without ever once really worrying about what either would think of the other, taking for granted that the things I loved in each would make them equally dear one to the other.  Only in retrospect does the magnitude of that assumption, and even more so the miracle of having been right in it, seem clear to me.  And so, this evening, as I sat to pen a brief thank you, I found myself wanting to capture the essence of the day in a way that would convey my gratitude for so much more than mere hospitality.  I found myself wanting to say thank you for a friendship that has spanned more than thirty-four years thus far, a full two-thirds of my life.

And so, as I was writing a "thank you" note tonight--not the obligatory kind required by social custom, but the kind you write for relief when your soul is full to overflowing and needs spill itself or burst--I found myself returning to that favorite phrase of mine from Robert Penn Warren, "the friend of your youth."  And coming to my own blog where I knew I could find the quote I was looking for, I found not only Warren's words, but my own, already echoing the very thoughts I'd penned tonight, and I was reminded that this was not the first time I'd felt this gratitude.  And therein lies one of the greatest benefits of blogging, or of journaling (which, blogging really is, just more publicly)--it gives us the opportunity to see our own thoughts return to us like kites upon the wind.

What I wrote tonight was this: "There are fewer than a half dozen people still in my life of whom I would use Warren's term and call 'friends of my youth.'  But when I think back to some of the very best times of my life, you are there.  And here you are again.  There are those for whom we don this or that persona, seeking acceptance, and there are those rarest few with whom there is no such thing as a persona; rather, we find our truest selves, our better and even best selves, drawn out, restored, presented to us again, whole and untarnished, as a gift."

What I wrote almost three years ago was this: "Because what such friends see in us, celebrate in us, treasure in us is that thing which is inscrutable to others, but which they see clearly, without needing to strike through any mask. And that thing is unchanging, even when we ourselves lose touch with it or forget its nature. The joy that we feel in the company of our true friends originates in the role they play in facilitating the emergence of that best self. And the overwhelming joy we feel in reunion with those friends after lengthy separation is, in some ways, as much a joy at reunion with ourselves as with them."

And so, to my friends, those friends of my youth in far better ways than Warren meant, thank you.  Thank you for welcoming introductions and for making a gift of re-introductions.  Thank you.  And thank you.