When I was in the second grade, I joined Brownie troop 313. Our loyal troop leaders, Topaz and Bambi, showed up every Wednesday afternoon for eight years. Topaz was my best friend’s mother and went by Mary Alice when she wasn’t wearing her Brownie uniform. Bambi was Donna’s mother and her name was Nancy Glass. We always ended our meetings by singing the same round together. Topaz led one side of the circle and Bambi led the other. Our sweet young voices harmonized across the circle as we sang over and over:
Make new friends but keep the old,
One is silver and the other’s gold.
I never thought about the meaning of those lyrics when I sang them year after year. But as I’ve gotten older and understood the treasured nature of friendship, the words truly resonate with me.
Friendships Are Precious
I’ve always thought of my friends as those same precious metals in the song — silver and gold. I love making new friends. I’m curious about people and find their stories fascinating. It’s also exciting to meet someone new and see where you click over common interests and shared values.
Even more important, I nurture my old friendships. I have friends I’ve known my whole life — literally. When I describe my friendship with Sandy, I tell people “we knew each other before we were born.” Our mothers were sorority sisters in college. After they each got married, they were pregnant with us at the same time. When Sandy and I were toddlers, our mothers plunked us in the same playpen while they played mahjongg together. Our moms remained friends their entire lives and so have Sandy and I.
I met my best friend, Marilyn, in Mrs. Biggs’ first-grade class. I started school a month later than the other kids because my family had just moved to a new house. Mrs. Biggs assigned Donna Glass to be my recess buddy. But when we went outside, Marilyn came over and said, “Don’t be friends with Donna, be friends with me.”
That was the beginning of 61 years of cherished friendship, which only deepened when we both became grandmas. We had the joy of introducing our 6-year old granddaughters to each other and watching them become friends at the same age we did. Sadly, Marilyn passed away in 2013. I still ache over losing her. We shared a lifetime of milestones together in such a joyful, loving way – truly relishing each other’s joys and grieving each other’s losses. You only get a friendship like that once in a lifetime — if you’re lucky.
Making Friends With Grandmas
Knowing such depth and breadth in a friendship left me longing for it again. When I became a grandma, I founded the GaGa Sisterhood, a social network for enthusiastic grandmas. I discovered the joy of sharing my new role with other grandmas and quickly felt an instant bond with my kindred sisters. We spoke the same love language when bragging about our grandchildren. Our GaGa Sisterhood attracts grandmas who revel in their role and gives us a shared starting place for meeting new friends.
Last year, my friend, Monet, who’s not a grandma, recommended the GaGa Sisterhood to her friend, Noele. When Noele came to her first meeting on March 8, 2020, none of us knew it would be our last in-person meeting for almost two years. There were 25 grandmas at that meeting and I barely had a chance to introduce myself to Noele.
A few weeks later we were all in quarantine. Noele wrote to ask if I’d like to go for a walk some morning. I was surprised by her invitation since we live 20 miles apart. Then she explained that we would go for a “virtual” walk. She’d walk in her neighborhood and I’d walk in mine while we talked on our cell phones.
I loved her idea — walking is much more fun when you’re with someone. We had our first walk on May 18, 2020, and we felt an instant connection. We both have three grandchildren, practice meditation and yoga, listen to audiobooks, and love to cook healthy recipes.
On our first walk, we covered three miles and talked non-stop for one hour. We agreed to walk the following Monday morning. I asked her to send me her photo because I couldn’t remember what she looked like. We’ve continued our weekly walks through two years of seasons — sometimes bundled in hats and scarves other times arriving home ready for a shower. We’ve become close confidants — pouring out our hearts to each other.
Sharing Grandma Joys and Challenges
We’ve shared our grandma joys and challenges and often talk about the past GaGa Sisterhood meeting. I value her feedback and appreciate hearing her impressions of the meetings. We also recommend books to each other. After we’ve read them, we discuss our favorite details. Noele and I have both practiced yoga for decades and share our teachers’ Zoom classes. Sometimes when we’re walking and pass a spectacular flower or tree, we take photos and text them to each other.
When I face a challenge, Noele is a great sounding board. I feel comfortable telling her my fears and self-doubts because she’s such a compassionate listener.
There’s another bond we share. Noele had a kidney transplant 20 years ago. So did my late husband. And so did our mutual friend, Monet, who introduced us. Our kidney kinship enables me to empathize with Noele’s health challenges because I witnessed them after my husband had his transplant.
When I reflect back on our two-year friendship, I consider it one of the best gifts of the Pandemic. I never imagined I could become so close to someone I only met in person for five minutes. My friendship with Noele has been a lifesaver during these isolating years. I look forward to our weekly walks when we catch up on the past week’s activities. We’ve developed a rhythm to our walking and a pace to our conversation. There’s an equal give and take that feels so satisfying when we finally walk into our homes and compare our steps on our Fitbits. Both of us marvel at the two years we’ve spent getting to know each other and feel such gratitude to Monet for introducing us.
To celebrate our one-year anniversary we met for lunch and sat face-to-face enjoying a lively conversation vowing to continue our weekly walks for as long as we can.