When you look at small children bouncing down the street you can see them make use of every step they have to make as their parents or guardians plod on worthily toward their errand or visit. Games come and go like feathers on the wind and they make adventures out of the paving stones or run ahead to hide behind the lampost or letterbox. It is always amusing to see them expending as much energy as possible on the journey while their elders spend as little as they can.
At schools, especially new schools, they examine each other with interest and make new friends in the time it takes us to peel an orange. This exuberant interest in others seems to spin on through the teens and somewhere into the twenties where it gradually quietens as work and family responsibilities take the edge of their celebration.
Now we get into the broad strokes of adult life where many things clamour for our attention, or possibly even worse, nothing clamours at all. I remember a man saying “You can count your real friends on the fingers of one hand” and many of us would agree with that. Meeting new people becomes an infrequent event and we may well be happy to say hello to someone new, but actually bonding and working deep down into each others spirit and dreams is an unusual experience.
If one of those five friends quarrel with you, or you with them the damage can be irreparable, or if repaired may merely return the relationship to operational levels of intimacy free of that careless and intimate exchange which characterised its previous history. We all have issues with each other, ignoring the issues we have with ourselves and coat over them with skilful social clichés so that they do not interfere with the smooth running of the world in which we operate.
Thus we can sit in a silence built of our own inability to say sorry or turn the other cheek. Wall ourselves up in pride with unsung regrets to keep us company; muttering about the way that people just don’t talk to each other any more. Doing this while maintaining a polite distance from the threatening world.
Thus it was that I was pleased to hear my partner laughing like a little girl as she arranged a visit with her eighty ear old aunt in the company of her cousin with whom she was a close childhood friend. Time and events have drawn their worlds apart but through pleasing circumstance they live near each other again, and can once more discover the pleasure of skipping over paving stones, or just chatting about old memories. Either way it will be a real pleasure to witness while I serve them badly brewed tea.