When our last child left home, I was sure that we would now have all the time in the world to spend with friends, hanging out, traveling, sharing all that newfound free time we all suddenly had. Instead, it has been busier than ever and the idea that we, and all of our friends, would be lounging poolside sipping margaritas was really just a fantasy.
So it has been surprising that it's even more difficult finding time to see our friends now. With the absence of that "school calendar" and the fact that all of our kids have their own schedules, I have become aware of an empty nest of a second kind: The Empty Nest of Friendship.
Our friends with kids the same ages have also been experiencing a re- commitment to work or creative endeavors. When the kids were young there was a definite structure to our lives: the school calendar and weekends. We all made plans working around these two specific time frames. You saw your friends because you shared movies after the soccer game, or took the kids to see the movie du jour while we ate salads and they ate pizzas. We caught up with each other while kids swam in the pool or played hide and seek. Summers were designed so that we could vacation together, still able to be with our friends and the children we loved.
While it used to be effortless to see each other because schedules were somewhat defined, now it takes conscious effort. Email is a way to exchange information, but nothing beats sitting across from the friends you love and have known for years sharing your lives and news. I feel recharged when there is that shorthand, the inside jokes that need no explaining, the revisiting of friendship lore, the sympathetic ear of a friend who is also dealing with elderly parents or a child's undecided future plans. These friendships were never ones that were taken for granted, and still aren't. But, now a bit of planning goes into seeing your friends when schedules and work take us in so many different directions.
It's part of the blessings of living long enough to see our kids grow, thrive, become their own people, become parents themselves, and to be there for them in different ways as they forge their futures. But there is something else that needs nurturing, too. With the passing of dear friends, and time butting its head against my wrinkled psyche, one thing is clear. Whether it's that fantasy poolside margarita, a hike in the hills, or a coffee at home, seeing my friends is as important as ever.