My kids, now teenagers, have no interest in visiting European cities, even one they were born in. Nostalgia makes them nervous. Their parents act oddly and they don’t like it. They would rather wear shorts and walking boots and spend the day outdoors. The Science Museum that five years ago held them spellbound no longer draws them in.
Two months ago my son, in a fit of helpfulness, wiped my hard drive clean. Something about freeing up space. As a result when I type in old friends’ names, nothing happens. The file marked ‘personal’ is completely empty. No one is at home. Perhaps, I think to myself, this is meant to be. Three years is a long time not to have seen someone, however good a friend they once were.
One or two trusty friends respond to my invitation immediately. The rest, doubtless busy, flag my email to respond later. An old friend I can’t track by email I decide to call. I pick up the phone, dial, and, half a world away Rachel answers, her tone clipped and drawled – if this is possible – as if we spoke yesterday. Her warmth makes it easy to reach out. She offers a bed, a meal, and an afternoon by the sea. A friendship fix.
My husband doesn’t keep in touch with old friends. He doesn’t have a policy on this, he just doesn’t do it. But this doesn’t seem right to me. If I still love someone, won’t they still love me? And yet, of course, it never is quite that simple. Life has changed me, warping and softening me at the same time. I am not who I was. My clothes are different. My thoughts are different. My hair is pretty silver. Yet, still recognisably me.
Three more old friends pop into my head. I note their names in my diary, a promise to myself – and to them. If I haven’t forgotten them, they probably haven’t forgotten me.