I’ve just said good-bye to my three closest college friends: Mary, Tina, and Gloria. We gathered in Gloria’s home, State College, Pennsylvania, just to renew our friendship for three days.
This photo was taken next to a pergola covered with trumpet vine. The story of how the vine grew over time, told by Gloria the gardener, struck me as the perfect analogy for our friendship.
We began as twigs.
In 1966, when we first met, we were malleable sprouts, newly separated from our parents, but eager to find new growth on our own.
Our twigs formed themselves around the combination of intellectual and spiritual pillars at Eastern Mennonite College in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Just like these slender stalks, we needed each other and we needed the occasional help from a binding material like the string on the photo above.
Following Mary McCarthy, we somewhat ironically called ourselves “The Group.”
We were a tame Mennonite version of those eight Vassar graduates from the scandalous book we read about but didn’t read. We spent hours telling each other stories and helping to analyze and understand the world around us, the chaotic 1960’s world of rebellion and protest, experienced within a religious tradition that was itself counter-cultural.
The Eastern Mennonite soil fed us, and our environment shaped us, as did the partners we found, and the careers we chose. Eventually, we scattered. Then there were children. All the while, our roots and branches grew.
Now we are grandmothers.
Our vines are full. They put out new roots and branches, offering abundant shade.
The ties that bind us to each other are fused by time, faith, laughter, tears, similarities, and differences.
When we greet each other, we jump for joy. When we part, we sometimes wipe away tears. This time we actually sang the hymn, next to the pergola, arms entwined.
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Without the posts that held us when we were young, we might never have stayed in touch. Without the deliberate entwining and binding, we might have grown tall separately.
Do you have lifelong friends? Is there a “Group” in your life, whether scandalous or tame? How did you/do you stay in touch? What binds you to your friends? What obstacles have you overcome? What cycles has your friendship experienced?