Change may be the only true constant but it always takes some getting used to. A few days ago it hit me—the shift in light that seems so sudden but really has been incremental, one day invisibly shorter than the one before. One more summer slipping away, autumn around the corner, ready or not.
Every one of those six wonderful years my daughter spent at sleepaway camp got my husband and me on a road trip, the ritualistic visiting day weekend I always looked forward to. In the way that she bonded with bunkmates, we did a little bonding of our own with the parents who became friends, too. On the way home we spent a night with good friends in the Boston area.
In a flash, it seems, those years have gone: the kids grow up, move out, move on. Sure, I get a touch of the blues when I think about how nice it would be to have her around the proverbial corner instead of living on the other coast. Then I read her reflection about her years at camp, and changing times, and the power of friendship—all of which has me thinking that distance is no real measure for closeness when it comes to the ways in which a mother and daughter can bond.
Mixed in a jumble of trinkets I keep in a wire basket is a small ceramic pin in the shape of an elephant. I bought it years ago, along with a few others designed to look as if they were pulled from a box of Barnum’s Animals. These were animal crackers to wear, not pop into your mouth. I kept the elephant, made gifts of the lion/giraffe/bear to a few of my closest friends at the time. Just this year I bought three of the same bracelets for myself and two dear friends.
Something to be said for ritualizing long-standing friendships. In the days before email and Facebook, I’d be on the phone a couple of times a week with my closest friends. These days we call when we can or simply need to hear each other’s voice. By the same token, if e-communication diminishes the kind of personal contact we sometimes find ourselves missing, it also allows us to make up for lost connections.
Intention in the Buddhist/spiritual realm is really a very specific thing, even if it has become an overused metaphor, and I do think we’re basically well intentioned: a friend I haven’t had contact with in a very long time sends an email out of the blue; another one finds me on Facebook; we start the back and forth, eager to catch up, determined not to let the renewed contact dissipate. We may even meet if geography allows.
But somehow, within a time frame shorter then we like to admit, the emails become few and far between, the Facebook conversation becomes more intermittent. It’s not for lack of interest, though it may be for lack of time in a world that demands so much of our day-to-day, up-to-the-minute attention. We scroll through newsfeeds, skim emails (more than half the time missing at least half of the message), get on with our lives.
Maybe it’s this simple: some knots are tight, others loosen with time.
Sometimes you open a box of animal crackers and those lions/tigers/bears (koalas now, too) come spilling out mostly intact; other times not so much. But even if they’re more broken than whole, doesn’t a bite into what may (or may not) have been a monkey’s head hold at least some of the same power as a madeleine?