One of our oldest couple-friends, whom we met in college, came to visit this weekend. We compared our gray hair and belly fat without embarrassment. We don’t mind the term old because we go way back.

Old friends.

It’s an endearing term, even when you are sailing through middle age and wondering how did this happen?? When you are with old friends, you are ageless. (Or at least the guys in this quartet think they’re ageless.)

Time with old friends is warm and comfortable, like an unmade bed that you crawl into after breakfast. Old friends speak of shared history, misadventures, heartbreaks, and shared secrets. They possess intimate knowledge of family dysfunctions, competitive game nights, and regrettable arguments. Old friends have dirt on you. (You have dirt on them, too, so it’s fair.)

My husband and I double-dated with these friends on their first or second date (I can’t remember which). They hid in the woods and filmed our engagement on a giant 80’s camcorder that weighed about 12 pounds. We both got married the same year, 1989. Since then, we’ve met for family vacations, raised 7 kids in similar fashion, and weathered the marital roller coaster. We’ve grown older and wiser at pretty much the same pace. Two of our kids have ended up at the same college and become friends.

These old friends are the real deal. When we are together, we are ourselves, and they are themselves. We pry, complain, and brag–and none of it is annoying. We are just thankful for transparency and the ease in which we slip in and out of each other’s lives, even while living apart for our collective 54 years of marriage.

All this makes me wonder–why do we choose to live apart from the people who know us so well?

Because when an old-friends opportunity appears, and I stop my feverish pace to relish in it; then I can’t, for the life of me, reconcile why I don’t choose to live this way all the time. Why don’t I create space more in my life, to the elimination of my schedule? Somehow, the Europeans manage to accomplish this easily. But they also buy their produce fresh every day, so there’s that.

I can think of a few things we’ve done to keep all our old relationships going, but I wonder what else we can do. Here’s our current how-to list:

  • keep in touch via social media
  • talk on the phone
  • plan vacations and get-a-ways together
  • reach out during trials and hard times (be transparent)
  • keep re-introducing your children to one another
  • keep memories
  • attend weddings, funerals, and big birthday celebrations

So how do you maintain your longtime relationships, especially those living far away?

I’m really asking. The only other thing I can think of is to move closer together.

Not such a bad idea.