There’s an American saying, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” Probably something similar exists in other languages as well.
I was reminded of the saying not long ago after a very lovely visit with a friend from college and her husband. Since they were planning to take the train from Le Havre, where they had ended their month-long cruise, to Paris, they suggested stopping in Rouen so we could meet up for the afternoon. I hadn’t seen them for many years although my friend and I had exchanged some brief emails over those years.
In Rouen, we spent a most enjoyable five hours catching up on our lives and exchanging news of mutual friends. After they left, while savoring our time together and recalling that saying about silver and gold, I started thinking about what I had written in my new book on the subject of friendships. I devoted several pages to my reflections on the many different relationships I have had in my life: with family, with work associates, with school and university companions, with pleasant acquaintances from my years in San Francisco, Hartford and Boston, with helpful colleagues from my journey to find Jeanne’s story, and now with so many kindred spirits during the time I spend in France. Indeed, one of the original reasons for the sequel to Jeanne’s story was to describe the marvelous adventures I had had during my research and to recognize the extraordinarily kind people whom I have met along the way.
While that second book, and my life as well, has turned into something totally unexpected, the experiences I have had, and keep on having, continue to spark my thinking about friendship, one of those gifts in life that “give value to survival,” according to author and theologian C. S. Lewis.
In that chapter about connections, I not only described a spectrum for the many different “shapes and sizes” of connections I have experienced. I also spent some time reflecting on why friendships have now become more of a focus for me in this third chapter of my life. Is it that I am meeting so many interesting and caring people? Or is it perhaps me who is different. Have I changed as a result of my years in France? Or is it age that has heightened my gratitude for the friends in my life, not only in France but in the United States and elsewhere? Is it that I have more free time since my work demands, while ever present, are less pressing now? Does the size of Dieppe have something to do with my new perspective, since I have never lived in a town this size? Or, as I noted in the book, does the culture of France have something to do with my new appreciation, a culture where friends are highly valued and nurtured just because friendship is important?
I wonder how my ancestor Jeanne Chevalier experienced friendship. Was she able to maintain her ties with friends in France? What about with the other Filles du Roi on their journey to new lives in New France? How did she forge new connections with other pioneers in her new homeland?
How do you, dear reader, reflect about the friends and connections you’ve formed, in your past or in your present life?