In listening to both intimates and acquaintances, I have noticed that often the most fraught ending in a woman's relationship is with a friend, not a lover.
Raw pain infuses a woman's face when she describes the end of a close friendship, and the loss is of different tenor than that of romance.
In "The Friend Who Got Away", Jenny Offill and Elissa Schappell collected twenty essays by women who describe such losses. This is not light bedtime reading: betrayal, the weight of expectations, mental health issues, the strains of child-rearing and work, jealousy, or just garden-variety indifference summon suffering even decades after the woman no longer sees her friend.
My view of friendships has changed over adult life. Once, I sought to replace the sister I lost when I was twenty-nine.
Now, I take a more flexible view. I see friends as plants in a garden: a few resilient, thirty and forty year-old willow trees amid a mix of perennials and annuals. (I've learned you can't make a perennial out of an annual, no matter how much you'd like.)
I enjoy magnificent dahlias and modest violets equally, nourish several seedlings and no longer count on everything to take root. Occasionally, I eradicate without regret. Sometimes a plant I thought was hardy vanishes.
The word that resonates is "tending"; what I don't nurture, withers. But winter comes to all
gardens, and as my friends and I age, some blooms appear only in dreams, with their essences intact; I awaken suffused with love, sorrow, gratitude. (One acquaintance said grimly that she was interested in
making new friends only if at least twenty years younger.)
When we moved to Montréal four years ago, I knew my greatest loss would be cherished friends. However, I didn't realize how long it might take to meet sympatico local women and build relationships, for we are long beyond the schoolyard days of instant friendship. My great luck was to immediately connect with my son's fiancée's mother and her sister, vital, smart and fun-loving women who generously introduced me to their circle. As my mother would say, they "took me up".
Marina, another friend I've made here, is moving next week, from a minute's walk away to small town a two-hour drive from Montréal.
I'll miss her; you can see her spirit in this photo, animated, good-natured, slightly daffy, yet bracingly direct. I'll also miss her menagerie: a pet rabbit, Mr. Oreo, her albino cat Lili, Lili's sister Bhumi, and her shy turtle, Bubbles, big as a dinner plate, who bobs in a kiddie wading pool in the living room.
To say goodbye, she hosted an open house last weekend, to which I brought a parting gift. Mr. Oreo despises the cats; jealous of their sleeping rights on Marina's bed, he rebuffs their sweet-natured overtures with bites and leporine attitude.
In France, you can buy rabbit cat food. Guess who got a tin each?