We met up friends of ours from the US when we traveled in Italy last week. These particular friends have known us for nine years. During these nine years, we’ve celebrated holidays and shared family vacations together. We’ve seen each other cry from grief and wear questionable clothes and argue with our spouses. We’ve laughed over bad karaoke and glasses of wine and stories about post-kid sex. They’re those friends. The ones who make you feel as if you’ve never spent three years and an ocean apart.
For a week, we ate all of our meals together while pretending our five children sat silent and fully obedient at the other end of the table. The words flowed as freely as the white wine–for everyone but me. The last few years of living in a country in which I can’t openly communicate have been hard. Really hard. I find myself pouring all of my thoughts and words onto the page, where I have time and space to think about each one before laying it beside another. I can hold my words in my hands and turn them over like precious stones until I feel ready to release them. Few people in my real-life world are waiting for me to speak them out loud. Not the grocery store clerk or the waiter or the other ex-pat moms trying to manage their own complicated language-barriers while planning weekend European trips.
I thought perhaps that visiting with old friends might cause the dam in the river of my word-hoarding to break, but it didn’t. I listened a lot more than I spoke, and when I did, the words came slow like they do when I write them on a page. They came simple and under-stated and not at all expressing the fullness to which I feel them. It made me wonder if moving back to the US will feel like starting all over again.
I’ve written a bit about roots, about the significance of place, and, as I sit with these thoughts often, I’m adding to them the importance of friendships as well. The importance of being known and creating a shared history and what it means to give a friend a piece of one’s self through the sharing of stories. I know I don’t share as many as I receive, and I don’t know how much that really matters. But, I feel a rising desire to be known, truly known, for all of my past and all of my present and all the potential of my future.
Tell me a little about your friendships right now. Do they come easily to you? What makes you feel “known”?
PS The photo above has absolutely nothing to do with this post. I feel slightly desperate for any sign of spring. Hence the photo with a hint of green:)