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Friend Time

One of the reasons we like where our house is situated is its proximity to the local high school. If you have a house near the high school and are reasonably welcoming, I think the likelihood that many teenagers will pass through your doors, sit (or sleep) on your couches and eat your food is high.

Location, location, location!

The crowd we know is the theater folks. They are dramatic (ahem) and relational and funny. They sometimes show up between school and rehearsal; they often show up after performances (fortunately, my husband is a night owl by nature).

This snowy winter has made me keenly aware of my good fortune in terms of location. Our neighborhood boasts not only this teen central roost (with another a few blocks away; we can ship ’em between spots when necessary, say, during four-day snow day plus weekend marathons), we have besties within reach for all of them.

Sometimes, it means we have many kids of one basic age or kids of all ages. Occasionally, it means our house, even during a snow day, empties out (or weekend day). This access to others lessens the cabin fever when we’re relatively stranded and makes after school hours and weekends much more pleasant.

I was reminded on holiday last week with three kids just how much I rely upon the “home away from home” aspect of our daily lives when I was in a house (in the lovely, lovely Mecca far from New England midwinter, Florida’s Gulf Coast) with three of my four kids (and my mom) and each day there was some cabin fever in the form of siblingitis. There were, too, many companionable moments when the play flowed like so many waves—the sand digging or wave hopping, the underwater play in the swimming pool. However, my eleven-year-old wanted his yoyo buddies and my six-year-old wanted her BFFles and even my not all that social fifteen-year-old wished to speak with people other than his siblings, mother and grandmother. I wanted more time to speak with my mom! Therefore, for this one week, I missed my kids’ friends far more than I missed my own.

Anyway, on Thursday morning we woke to young voices next door. And there was Pippa, age seven and her brother Ben, age five. For my just-turned-six year-old gal, life was absolutely brilliant. For two glorious days, she played and played and played.

I loved how the duo—Saskia and Pippa—and the trio—Saskia, Pippa and Ben—spent hours between our two houses. I’m not sure what they did. Mostly, they wandered back and forth. The freedom of this bubble—friends in motion—entertained them even when they didn’t exactly “play” anything specific. It reminded me how both vacation and childhood have that suspension of time and that the lack of specific activity is, in fact, important. It’s not boredom and it’s not boring to pass the time with a friend or with friends.

Come to think of it, my house often feels exactly like the space between our vacation house and the vacation house next door felt—only with teenagers. They, too, fill a lot of time together—and they aren’t bored, exactly; they are companionable.

I logged my companionable hours during adolescence, too. When I try to remember what we actually did, it’s hard to pinpoint so much. Sure, we went places and had parties and did homework and studied for tests. But the memories are much less about events than a film—not video—in my mind that’s more carpets and beds and couches and there’s a soundtrack (Joni and Jackson and Bonnie and the Stones and the Who, etcetera) on vinyl. We kind of just were together. I know that when I see many of these folks, even after years apart, I feel so familiar, so comfortable with them and it’s because, I think, I lived some life with them. Plus, we shaped each other with our sensibilities.

My adolescent BFFle lives in my town and so, although our kids aren’t exactly the same age, we’ve logged time in adult years and parenting years and we each call our kids “lovey” at times and I know that somehow we got that from the same city and the same era and our very different parents. Obviously, through our parenting of adolescents, we serve as one another’s touchstones. Not only do we remember one another as teens, we remember each other’s parents and how we were parented (but that’s another story, for another day).

For now, it’s Pippa and Ben, who served to remind me that friends matter, new ones, old ones, and ephemeral ones.

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This entry was written by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

About the author: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Brain, Child Magazine, and Salon, amongst others. Follow her on twitter–@standshadows.

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

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