The best part about growing up in a small town is the inevitability of close, lifelong friendships. Glen Ellyn is called "The Village" for a reason: the sense of community — of connectedness — is overwhelming. Everything feels familiar. The Main Street shops are owned by family friends, you spot your kindergarten teacher at the post office, and you can't quite do errands without running into at least three people you know. The togetherness — it's a physical thing, too. On fall Saturdays, everybody migrates toward the high school football field to watch the games. On Sundays, everybody ends up at the neighborhood park. Fences are rare. Even the backyards blend together.
For me, that reality of lifelong connections has led to a clear, specific quality of friendship: namely, that it lasts forever. A sense of closeness, to me, comes from knowing anything and everything. From knowing each other's families and homes, from sharing meals and holidays and traditions. To me, the border between friendship and family is so thin and insignificant so as not to exist at all.
It's been interesting, then, to make friends later in life — to leave that small-town environment and try to establish forever with fresh faces. In college and ever since, I've found that I do everything I can to fill in the backstory between me and another person. My college friends could list all my clearest memories from elementary school, junior high, high school. They could call out every heartbreak, every small victory. There's not a name they wouldn't recognize, not a story they couldn't re-tell, and I could point out all of theirs, too, because that's the kind of friendship I love: where all the lines between yours and mine are blurred, where everything becomes shared even if it wasn't at the time.
Of course, that may not work for everyone. That sort of open-book, become-part-of-my-family kind of connection can sometimes feel like too much for a person. Truth is, I find that all-out familiarity comforting, though — as if building a forever is the only way. Or at least the truest.
I'd love to know: Do you feel the same? What defines your ideal friendship?
(Photo: Home | My Flickr)