Under the Ceiling Fans; Friendships Evolve

 

Moving 18 times throughout 7 countries in 45 years, taught me one fact of life. You cannot pack up friendships in a box to take with you when you move. You will have to start from scratch to remake these very important relationships, spending time and energy to rebuild new ones.

The gift of a new friend's gift

The gift of a new friend's gift

But somethings can ease your way. Children are entry cards to creating new friendships; for between playdates, birthday parties and school functions, adults meet with other parents at shared events. Friends like a Peruvian/British woman met at back to school night in Guayaquil, Ecuador who taught me how to keep a rat from entering the house via our toilet.

Sometimes your family finds new friends for you. I still treasure the memory of my teenage daughter's breathless landline call from the Westport, Connecticut home where she was spending the night with a new school friend. "Mom," she gasped, "Amy and I have figured out 18 things that you and Mr. and Mrs. T--- have in common. We think you four should become friends."

Which we did and still are over a quarter of century later. Couple friends, very hard to find in my life experience so very special when found.

While in the unairconditioned heat of Curacao I sipped cup after steaming cup of Douwe Egberts coffee under ceiling fans. It was how I purchased time with a new possible friend. As the ceiling fan impotently battled the tropical heat, our chat was like a emotional strip tease. I'd share a juicy nugget from my past just to see how she reacted. She might respond in kind, if not I might next share a juicier secret from my past. Nothing too bite-me-in-the-butt later, but one interesting enough to test her trustworthiness to keep a secret. How I sorted the wheat from the chaff.

I consciously spent a lot of time on relationships, it was like dating. If there was a meeting where other expatriate women would be, I'd be there too. I'd work the room like a politician, culling the crowd down to who I wanted to get to know better. I tried to talk less and listen more. To be open to new people, avoiding assumptions that might get in the way.

Many of these experiential friendships of fellow foreigners in foreign lands later outlasted friendships created in America. Why? Perhaps because we needed each other more and thus went deeper, faster to get to know one another. Far away from our homelands, we rebuilt family from those we met abroad.

As an introvert who is perfectly at ease in my solitude, even I needed and sought out friendships. Friends have been my sounding boards to tell me when I'm off course (or on); confessors with whom I can vent and release the frustrations of life whether abroad or at home. Or sometimes the key to solving a problem. So much life experience in the brains of so many women I've met over the years.

New to Western Massachusetts, I once again keep an experienced instinct open to making new friends. The weekly knitting group offers a bounty of interesting women. Dinners for 4 offers opportunities for me to crawl into other couples lives. And with all of the activities that abound in this small town in a valley, who knows who might become my new best friend.

Then there is my new friend with whom I share a birthday, a former teacher who taught me the hands-on life cycle of the butterfly pupa. As a city dweller, I could tell you how to navigate cities, but not what the butterfly's favored food milkweed looked like. When she later arrived at my door with the gift of two butterfly pupa, as seen above, I was touched beyond belief.

All of which reminds me, I owe my Canadian friend who I met in Mexico City a call. Reaching out, like banking a fire, keeps friendships alive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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    Candace Drimmer

    I was an accidental expatriate; love and marriage led me to it. One day I was a bandy-legged kid sitting atop my dogwood tree looking out of my small backyard world in 1950s New Jersey, wanting to move somewhere--anywhere, different. Next thing I knew my father had accepted a job in Houston TX. I was ecstatic, it was a foreign land in 1961 America. After high school graduation, my parents’ gave me a matched set of fawn-colored hardsided American Tourister luggage. Taking the hint, I went to college; well four colleges in five years--it was the 60s after all. Meeting a young hirsute anti-war, soon-to-be-Peace Corps volunteer, I fell in love. After finishing up college coursework for my degree, but before I even walking a graduation stage, I grabbed the paper airline ticket my boyfriend had sent me, my brand-new passport, and was off to the airport and Lima, Peru.

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