I have the memory of an elephant. I can usually recall what you wore and exactly what she said, so naturally I remember my childhood in full color. I can picture the spot in the parking lot where my sister taught me to whistle and I remember the way it smelled in the shop my mom took me to for dance shoes and leg warmers. Many of my historical markers lie within about 10 square miles of each other and include the same people so maybe that’s my trick.
I have lived in San Diego for 15 years now, but this past week when I touched down in Oregon, something in my core took a deep breath. The trees are so big, the flowers so abundant, the food so fresh and the people so comfortable. I find myself in awe and ask for the hundredth time, “Was it always so beautiful here?”
We drive by the swim center where I earned my patches that mom sewed onto my suit. And then we see the place where I held my grandpa’s hand as he crossed from here to eternity. There is a memory on every corner and I want to mention each one.
“You remember everything,” my friends say to me with rolling eyes and pretend annoyance. They comment (more often than necessary) on my quirks and about who I used to be before maturity set in. They can do that because they were there. They knew me when I had a poster of Ricky Schroder in my bedroom and they were there when I couldn’t figure out the clutch, people were honking and I was crying.
History is a powerful force in friendship and last week I was reminded of how glad I am to have people in my life today that “knew me then.” It’s like being there while a house is being built and then standing near it years later with perspective that not many others have. They know how I was built, they know my layers.
We witnessed (and even contributed to) the process of becoming who we are today. We played at each other’s houses and on the same teams. We had sleepovers and snow days, summer camps and secrets. We walked some hard roads together and at times had to tell the hard truth to each other. They are my perennial friends.
As defined by Better Home and Gardens, “Perennials are plants and flowers that come back year after year and are found in virtually every yard. Perennial flowers work in multiple situations: in whole garden beds, in combination with annuals and bulbs, as accent to shrubs and trees, and in containers and windowboxes. In addition, perennials often increase each year, which means they can be divided and added to other spots in the landscape.”
Perennial friends come back year after year, fit in anywhere and can be found in almost anyone’s backyard. They multiply the beauty in life and no matter the conditions, they still seem to pop up. This kind of friendship allows for genuine affirmation, compassion and safety and it gives us a strong voice to speak into each other’s lives.
Sometimes having shared history can hold people back from seeing change. Like your brother who still sees you as the selfish twelve year old that won’t clean up your side of the room. Or the friend that refers to you as the “late person” or the one who “can’t make up your mind” and no amount of evidence that you’ve grown up will take you out of your pigeon hole. Not every old friend can be a perennial friend.
Some long standing relationships have conflict unresolved, wounds unhealed and sins unforgiven. Taking an old friendship and turning into a perennial one requires more than just reminiscing. It takes reconciliation for the past, hope for the future and connection in the present. It needs time in your current life for vulnerability to be cultivated and for new memories to be made. The relationship must grow as we grow.
It’s never too late to start. Make the effort to reconnect with an old friend. If there are no long standing friends in your life, start sowing perennial friendships now. Last week is technically history. Not everyone will span the years, but put some intentionality and loyalty toward a friendship you treasure and see what happens. Friendships like that are golden threads woven into the fabric of who we are. Plant yourself next to another perennial and watch each other grow. It’s worth the investment.