Friday, August 17, 2007

Friends Reunited

I read my fellow columnist Suzanne Rodger’s column in our Tuesday paper this week with great interest and with a wee tear in my eye.
Recalling how her own mother wrote her a 22 page letter on how to look after her son, now 22, when he was a newborn, Ms Rodger’s lamented the lost skill of letter writing.
We have, she said, become quite soulless creatures - opting for the quick thrill of a text message or the instant communication of an email but I think she underestimates the power of a quick hello.
I’m a text and email addict and I cannot for the life of me remember the last time I put pen to paper to write a letter to a friend. (Usually pen only goes to paper to write letters of complaint these days). It’s a far cry from my student days when, before the invention of Gmail, Bebo or Facebook, I used to spend hours in the university library penning long and drawn out epistles to my friends back in Derry. (It was kind of sad really, as I was only in Belfast and went home every weekend).
I would pile in all my news, thoughts and feelings to these letters and I would love it when return mail rattled through my letterbox. With life moving us in all directions I subsequently found myself writing to friends in the States and London and, in time, exchanging love letters with my then boyfriend (now husband) as he lived in Wales.
But much as I loved receiving letters there was something about this older style of communication that could leave me feeling very lonely. The post being what it was, I would get a wee thrill opening the envelope, absorbing its contents and writing my reply but then things would go quiet for a week or more while I waited for a response.
If things were particularly busy, the opportunity to reply to letters became almost impossible and the gaps between letters would grow longer. In many cases they fizzled out altogether as life moved on and got busier still.
That is where the world of instant communication has come to my rescue. Although much maligned, I love the power of text messages. I love that I can be busy but take ten seconds out to check someone is okay or tell them I’m thinking of them. When I’m busy, I may not always have the time for a phone call but that doesn’t mean I can’t let people know they are in my thoughts and I know many of my friends feel the same.
It may be a quick Happy Birthday message, a simple ‘how are you?’ or, as has happened on at least three occasions to me, the announcement that a dear friend has become a mummy or daddy.
And when it comes to renewing old friendships and keeping in the loop with what friends old and new are up to, you can’t beat the internet.
A few weeks ago a friend sent me an invite to Bebo. Now, as a 31-years-old mother of one I really shouldn’t be trying to get down with kids of today and going on such trendy sites, but I soon found out it was a perfect way to get back in touch with people I hadn’t spoken to in almost eight years.
Within a couple of weeks I found myself sat with two old and very dear schoolfriends in Timber Quay catching up and reliving all those mad days of our teenage years over a couple of glasses of wine.
We talked about our children, our work, our lives since we last all met up and we didn’t notice the time flying past. We found out all the gossip about each others’ families, what we had been doing all this time and reminiscised about our joint obsession with Bros.When the waiting staff started to look a little edgy we realised we were keeping everyone back and reluctantly said our goodbyes vowing that it wouldn’t be eight years ‘til we sat around a table together again.
In the days that followed, I heard from two other old friends. I was delighted to read that one friend is living the high life in London while another has just become a mummy to a beautiful little girl and now, of course, keeping in touch is a mere click of a mouse away.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to take much time. If life is really getting on top of us, it can just be the change of expression on a smiley face or a “what I’m doing now” update. It certainly doesn’t mean I’m lazy or don’t care and think my friends are only worth a few minutes of my time. It’s simply that I don’t have much time at all, so as with everything, I’m doing the very best I can with the limited resources I have.
Without the modern technilogical aids to my life I would most probably spend my life communicating to no-one but my work colleagues, my son and his host of imaginary personas. It’s good to talk, it’s nicer to write a letter but it just does fine to send a text!

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