One of the jump-rope jingles we used to chant when we were kids went like this: “Make new friends and keep the old. One is silver and the other gold….”
Some people are lucky enough to be born into large, loving, supportive families. What must that be like? Diamonds?
I, on the other hand, feel rich in the friendships – new and old, silver and gold – that I’ve made and kept along the way. And it’s been a long way! I just turned 71.
I was reminded of my immense friend-wealth recently when Facebook did me the favor of letting my friends, near and far, know about my birthday last week.
I realize it’s possible to find fault with Facebook. You could say, for example, that it’s an echo-chamber for political (and other) views, it’s a handy repository for tired platitudes (such as, “You’re as young as you feel!”), it’s a silly outlet for puerile photos (like a pic of the popcorn you’re eating for dinner), and it can be a huge waste of precious quotidian time. Frank Bruni, my favorite New York Times writer, even swiped at it brilliantly the other day with the column, “How Facebook Warps Our Worlds” (NYTime.com, May 22). All true.
But — and I’m more than a little surprised to see myself defending online social media like this, Taurus Brontosaurus that I’ve always been — one day a year I truly love Facebook and forgive it all its faults. That day is May 18, my birthday. (Eighteen has also always been my favorite, “lucky” number, especially since I learned of its significance in the Jewish religion: 18 corresponds to the Hebrew word “chai,” meaning “life.”)
This year, living in a new (for me) country, making new friends, yet staying connected with old friends through my “lifeline” (this new computer that replaced the stolen one), I appreciated Facebook-delivered birthday wishes more than ever before. People from every place I’ve ever lived, from every stage of my life, appeared, thanks to Facebook, as if in person, to remind me of that time and place and how that person helped to shape me.
There was a wish from Astrid, a hometown neighbor in New Jersey, who taught the preteen me how to twirl a baton. And another from my dear friend John, whom I’ve known since high school. And another from Kathy, my Katharine Gibbs roommate and the maid of honor at my wedding fifty-two years ago. And one from Gigi, who was my daughter’s playmate in Salisbury, Rhodesia. And another from Tom, my best guy-pal at Columbia University. And a sweet, sweet note from singer/actor/director Michael, who was my head waiter when I had a catering business in New York thirty years ago. And one from my “chocolate sister” Yolande in Gabon, who took me in when I was in Peace Corps training in 1996, and another from my Peace Corps postmate, Morgan, who now lives in Idaho with her family. And several from friends from graduate school in L.A. And more from friends in Taos, where part of my heart still is.
I was awash in well over one hundred good wishes from friends all over the world – from Argentina to the Philippines — friends, who, like me, may have moved on but who haven’t lost touch. We’re connected by silver and gold threads that seem to be unbreakable (thanks again, in part, to Facebook). For this I’m unspeakably grateful, and I feel immeasurably rich.