I was reflecting the other day on friendships new and old, and wondering whether I have been doing my best at nurturing the relationships that matter most to me. Since leaving New York, I have been focused on building out my network here in the D.C. area: rekindling old friendships, getting to know my neighbors (especially the ones with young children), spending quality time with local family, and integrating my children and I into the communities at their school and assorted extracurriculars. This has necessarily meant less time for my New York friends, and Chicago friends, and select UVA friends who did not settle in the D.C. area. When Mr. Magpie tested positive for COVID and went into isolation, I initially leant most heavily on my immediate, local network — neighbors who generously dropped off puzzles and meals, local friends with young children with whom I was already in frequent, vibrant text exchanges and who generously commiserated and checked on me, and my parents and in-laws, who dropped by with deliveries of wine and fruit and diversions for the children. But within days, my longtime friends — my UVA girls, my New York crew — were coming to my aid, too. “OMG” was the prominent message, followed by “Hang in there” and often an Amazon delivery with a surprise for the children. (Now, less than a month later, no one at all would be shocked — I feel nearly all of us have had some permutation of isolation and quarantine in our households. But at the time, in late November, it felt out of the blue, after two years of avoiding the damn thing.)
Two days after Mr. Magpie came out of isolation, just after we’d restarted quarantine because micro had tested positive, he asked me: “How did you do this by yourself?” But the truth was — I hadn’t. I’d been totally carried by friendship and micro-maneuvers recommended by friends that enabled me to give myself the grace I needed to make it through.
I sat down one afternoon and wrote thank you notes to the flock of friends who had lifted me during those eighteen long days at home. There were notes to girlfriends who shared cheap apartments and decrepit houses with me in Charlottesville, Virginia right alongside notes to neighbors who have sat with me on the cul de sac in front of my suburban home watching our young children scoot and bike and chase one another over the past six months. Notes to friends who have seen me at my absolute worst — crying in fraternity bathrooms over unimportant things — and notes to friends who have seen only the surface of me, the filtered version we all present when making acquaintances. To the latter, I might be Jen-whose-children-wear-bows-and-jon-jons or Jen-who-likes-to-give-out-holiday-treats-with-personalized-tags or, I hope, Jen-who-lent-me-something-when-I-needed-it. These are tender-footed relationships that might slowly bronze into longtime friendships that involve vacationing together and sitting on the porch talking into the cicada song and sticky heat of D.C. at night, or that might trickle into occasional run-ins at birthday parties and friendly waves while running through the neighborhood. It is hard to know how to mete out the appropriate amount of energy when I am blessed by friends who have already traveled so far with me, who have given me sidelong looks, and enormous, silent hugs, and sometimes a squeeze of the hand when I have needed those things and God! Aren’t we lucky to have girlfriends?! To lend us tissues and “going out tops” and shoulders to cry on and covers to borrow and snarky memes when we need them and eye rolls at the idiocies of ex-boyfriends when we need those, too, and big, long pockets of silence into which to pour our hearts.
I think sometimes those intimacies will be hard to find in new relationships. I have such deep roots and long-tailed, shared histories with my older friends and so I feel it is natural and comfortable to turn to them without worrying about how I might be “coming off” to a newer acquaintance. And yet — so interesting the way proximity has played into the way I spend my friendship time these days. Pre-omicron, I was having coffee dates and lunches and dinners with newer or rekindled friendships, and often those stretches absorbed the time I might otherwise dedicate to calling or emailing or texting girlfriends to catch up. It has been thrilling to connect with new women in a similar life stage with similar points of reference but who come from all different backgrounds and histories and points of view — to bond, to exclaim, to commiserate, to see myself anew. At the same time, it has occasionally felt as though I am cheating my longtime friends of my friendship. And it is strange, too, that my ring of newer friends and especially my neighbors tend to know more about what’s happening with us than my close, longtime friends, simply by virtue of logistics — i.e., we had to alert our local friends to the possibility of exposure to COVID, and to explain why our children couldn’t play with theirs or why were absent from various functions, and so on.
How do you balance these forces? How do you honor the friends that have been there while staying open to the good fortune of meeting good people in your 30s and 40s? How much of yourself do you keep open? How much do you reserve? I am such an enormous believer in providence that I feel many of the people that appear in my life are there for a reason, and I owe them my attention. As an example, I have spent some time with a childhood friend of my brother’s and he has for various coincidental reasons brought my deceased girlfriend Elizabeth back into my life in a meaningful way. I am profoundly grateful for that path-crossing. I cannot help but feel God’s hand in it.
As with many of these queries, the answer is probably fluid. We might devise some rubrics to help — i.e., who do I feel my best around? — but we might give more of ourselves to new friends today and more to our old ones tomorrow, and that’s OK.
+Hosting girlfriends at home.
+Building friendships through motherhood.
+This $36 feather-trim robe is beyond fabulous. Zsa Zsa Gabor vibes.
+FUN, dramatic date night top in the black. Prefer it tucked in so it’s not too voluminous.
+This popular striped midi dress is now on sale for under $160. Love! Would look great with suede boots.
+I went back for a second helping of J. Crew sale finds for little ones (round one here) and bought micro some more everyday clothes. He starts school (!) next week and was feeling like we needed some extra clothes to send him into school with (see aforementioned toilet training) and some fresh duds in general since he’s suddenly way too tall for his size 2 wardrobe. I bought a couple of these tees and henleys (around $11 with code BIGSALE), these lined dock pants, and these sweats in the gray to pair with his rugby shirts and LS polos.
+These weathertight bins are the absolute best — we have them in all different shapes and sizes — but I found them at a great deal for a pack of 6. These can be used in basements, garages, etc, as they seal closed and keep things dry and secure. I mainly use mine for things like holiday decorations, tabletop, ribbons/bows, etc.
+Such a great idea for a young man or lady — a daily gratitude journal calibrated to children under 10.
+I’ve written about this elsewhere, but these bandaids are not only cute but really adhesive. Great for little ones, since they actually stay put!
+Gorgeous jeweled cardigan at a fab price.
+Everyone’s favorite fleece in the prettiest shade of ice blue.
+Handful of classic Hunter boots for littles on sale here.
+Zimmermann on sale, and an extra 25% off with code EXTRA25.
+A step stool for those of us in the throes of toilet training.
+These swan statement earrings are beyond amazing —
+As is this anorak. Wow.
+Getting better about sharing all my latest finds here, in one stream.