Friends for Season, Reason, or Life

I wrote the mid-September blog about my friendship with Hope Davis while I was in California, visiting in-laws. Before making the visit I told them that I’d be a happier family member if I could have two hours every morning to myself.

So I left my sleeping daughter in the hands of her new grandparents, and each morning I slipped out of the quiet house, onto my pink bicycle, and rode a mile up the road to a Starbucks at the base of a mountain. There I could write all morning.

Woman Drinking Coffee

As an amateur mother with a 7-month-old daughter, I had forgotten how spacious it feels to have mornings alone, and how much more energy it gives me to put toward people. The first morning I sat by the window and watched a toddler climbing over rocks to try to catch birds. I noticed also that every hour dozens of name-tagged men in business casual clothes lined up for more coffee. Name tags always make me curious. So I went up to a man whose tag read: “Hi, I’m Torvald, and I am from Finland.”

“Hello,” I said. “What is this gathering?”

He looked surprised and a bit taken aback. But a woman standing next to him (not wearing a name tag) answered: “It’s a global particle physics conference. All of these people are physicists. Not me, though. I’m his wife, Krista.” She nudged Torvald and beamed at me.

I had never seen a woman look happier to be spoken to by a stranger. When the line dwindled down and the physicists returned to the conference, Krista plunked her coffee mug down at my table. “May I join you?” she asked, “and can we please talk about anything except particle physics?”

We talked for an hour—about California, aging, the beauty of a really good cheese Danish, our grandparents, our countries, our spouses. We talked about her job (university receptionist), and about what I was writing (a story about a lasting friendship).

We left without exchanging emails—it was one of those rare and wonderful conversations with a new friend who would never become an old friend. In one sense it felt a bit poignant (if you like somebody, why not take measures to keep her in your life?) But our lives were both full. And so the morning gave us what we each needed: the pleasure of making a new friend, and a reminder that there are always friends to be made, if you simply take the chance to ask a stranger a question or sit down at a new person’s table. Krista left the coffee shop part of a large and widening pool of small, unexpected connections: a person who in some way touched my life.

It reminded me of my dear friend Susie who has always said: “Friends are for season, reason, or life.” Krista was for season–the season of a quiet Monday morning in July, the season of morning coffee breaks between particle physics panels.

[image via]