Monday, October 5, 2015

...and the other's gold

Years ago, my friend Marj moved to Fort Collins. On a visit back to Alaska, she walked into a local art gallery and a woman recognized her and started a conversation. Marj burst into tears because that never happened in Fort Collins. So when the thought of relocation reared its head, I called Marj.

Right away, Marj said something like, “Erase that story from your memory banks.” It must have been early on because now she has lots of friends and loves her new life. “You will find one thing that interests you. Probably by fluke. That one thing will lead to another, and other people, and then you are off and running, and soon you will have to eliminate some things from your life.”

My friend Julia moved to Denver. Julia takes tons of classes and says she always extends an invitation to have coffee. But both Julia and Marj say the sooner the better. Or, as Tim says, no one wants to be your friend when you’re 80 and in ill health.

I remember a woman moving to Anchorage a few years ago. She said it was hard to get incorporated into friendship circles because most people were overextended already. They were busy with kids or jobs or whatevers and didn’t have time to regularly see the friends they already had. Even Sophie, who has tons of friends in San Francisco between both college friends and new work friends and new friends’ friends, said at one point they were chanting “No new friends!” because they were over-extended socially.

Chris thinks that in our Third Thirds, we aren’t so busy with kids or jobs so we’ll have time to put into those new friendships, and that those friendships will grow out of our new interests. But Mimi says even though his parents moved 30 years ago, their close friends at the end of their lives are still their friends from 30 years before, in the old place.

When I went off to college, I was excited about starting fresh, recreating myself. In a new place, I could be a whole new Barbara because no one knew me. (On the plane, back when they served meals, the flight attendant spilled creamed spinach on my white sweater and I had to meet all the new freshmen with a green splotch on my top. The old Barbara was not to be left behind.) Back then, I wanted a whole new future life – no history.
Relocation in the Third Third offers excitement, challenges. Marj said, “I knew my brain would appreciate the challenge of learning how to find places, learning which restaurants would become my favorites, learning what doctor I wanted to use, learning to ask everyone I met who they go to for eye exams, etc., etc.” I agree with her; I find that deliriously exciting. Tons of New Things to explore!
But when Tim and I visited Portland – and it was exciting – we were anonymous. We could go everywhere and never run into anyone we knew. When I say that Anchorage theaters mean you know everyone during intermission, I don’t mean you’re friends with all of them – maybe some – but that many of them are familiar. Our world is populated with familiarity.

I have been in the same book club for about 20 years. I have friends who were there when I met Tim. I have friends I knew when they were single, when they were pregnant, when they were married to someone else. I have reconnected with old friends when life circumstances changed. I have brand new friends and more recent friends, but they’re planted in a well-tended garden. I don’t think I’m an easy friend-maker, but I am deeply rooted in Alaska because of my friends. Thirty years of a slow and steady gathering together.

So the subject of relocation came up, and Ivy said she hates discussions like that. “But I don’t want to be an old person in Alaska,” I said.

“I’ll bring you casseroles,” Ivy answered.
Yup, that’s a big deal.

1 comment:

  1. Barbara, you have to come visit my town. Gig Harbor has a good hospital, art galleries, used book stores, a really good library,a new Y with a big pool, a good local yarn store, great restaurants, a vibrant arts community, parts, trails, farmers markets, beautiful scenery and a short ferry ride to Seattle city life. And then I can bring you casseroles. And you can join my book club. Listen, leaving Alaska is HARD and sometimes lonely, but as I've learned, it's not impossible. We're actually thriving here. I never thought I'd be able to say that.


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