This week I had the pleasure of meeting my SO's two closest friends, both of whom live overseas and are seldom in NZ. It was a wonderful day, with kids and wives, extended family, lots of food and music and plenty of laughs (and ''remember when'' stories).
These guys met when they were only 14, and 25 years later still clearly have a strong bond that can only be formed through the trials and tribulations of the teen years. There was a fourth in the group, who sadly died as a young man, and part of this day of gathering included a walk up the mountain these boys spend much of their time on as young people. Some others joined us and we sat at the top of the hill enjoying an amazing NZ vista and slugging back quintessential kiwi refreshments (Schweppes Sparkling Duet anyone?).
It was great fun to see them in action, and be able to piece together a little more of SO's life pre-me. And they (and their wives) made me feel so welcome that any potential awkwardness was gone before it even appeared. Even though we had never met - in fact had barely even seen a Facebook photo of each other - it was fun, and relaxed, and conversation flowed easily. Social media is all well and good, but nothing replaces the joy of a real life conversation!
But of course there's a downside to the 'see you every two years'' kind of relationship. By living so far apart from each other we miss all those important events - weddings, birthdays, funerals, the birth of children - that were once the things that drew a community together. Perhaps it shouldn't matter. Perhaps its a matter of quality not quantity when it comes to friendships - but I still have this feeling that giving the choice, most of us would like to be surrounded by those people that mean most to us, and shared some of our most intense experiences (as only early-adulthood ones can be).
I too have a group of friends from that time and it has been many many years since the four of us have been together. When we do, the friendships pick up right where they left off and time falls away. That's the power of friendship. But I can never quite decide if it's a wonderful thing, that the world is so small we can relocate to another country with such ease - and commute half way round the world for Christmas - or if in fact this is a tragedy: those incredible friendships that we develop as young people, despite remaining strong no matter how far apart people can be, could surely be so much more if we lived nearer each other?