THE NATURE OF FRIENDSHIPS

It was New Year's Eve, and the Bay Area was just beginning its blanket of rainy days when my friend first shared the news with us. "I've taken a new job... in London" she told us, carefully avoiding eye contact as we stood chatting in her kitchen surrounded by potluck plates and dishes.

Dumbfounded, we peppered her with questions, alternately congratulating her on her new position that enabled her to use her vast skill set, and asking variations of "How will you make this work?" Warming to the topic, she reassured us that not a lot would change- she would work from her home office for two weeks out of the month, and work in London for the remaining two weeks.

We took it all in, striving to support her as she has supported us during difficult periods of transition-the dissolution of relationships, health issues, and the deaths of loved ones that comprise life after a certain age. We toasted her and her good fortune with champagne, and I tossed the thought of a close friend no longer being physically present with all the other ones that are difficult to grasp: in the back of my garage-like mind where her absence remained relevant and overlooked on a daily basis.

And for a while nothing seemed to change. My husband, Keith and I still regularly hosted dinner parties where she and her husband, who were the first people I met in the Bay Area when I first moved here 9 years ago, would join us until the wee hours as the dining table morphed into a card table, and we traded stories, passionately held opinions and much trash talk. Montclair being the village that it is, we ran into them frequently and unexpectedly at the supermarket, farmers market, dry cleaners, out walking, at restaurants, and once at a wedding in Napa. 

Keith and I have never been the type of people to travel with other couples. Our reluctance is rooted in fear. We worry that in the intimacy of travel, all our idiosyncrasies will emerge, to our detriment. With these two, whom we consider to be like family (but with less yelling) we happily went on our fourth international trip together in March.