On June 14, 2023

Friends and acquaintances


In a column written back in May by fellow Mountain Times columnist, Dom Cioffi, he told about the various friends throughout his life. That got me thinking about the friends I have made over the years. Some remain in my life but most do not.

The word “friend” is used rather loosely by many of us. I think my late relative, Loyola, was correct about the terminology. She frequently reminded me that most of us have many more “acquaintances” than we have “friends.” 

I decided to see what the dictionary had to say on that subject. It said an “acquaintance” is someone you may see frequently but are not close to. There is little familiarity with that person. 

I think Loyola was onto something!

When you are a kid, the word “friend” is totally appropriate when you are referring to those who are your daily playmates. You often know them as well as you know yourself. Growing up in a neighborhood with about a dozen kids my own age meant having a lot of friends! Back in the 50s when you weren’t in school you went outdoors to play with your friends and didn’t come in until you were called to a meal. You spent hours together and got to know each other well.

During the elementary school years you begin to distinguish between friends and acquaintances. You know everyone in your class but you know little about them and their home lives. When seeking friends at school you look for those who have interests similar to your own. You spend time after school with them. You are in each other’s homes and get to know their parents and siblings. Being an only child I was fascinated by all that went on in my friend Barbara’s house. She has four siblings and everyone had their own responsibilities. I got to know the whole family and am still friends with all of them today.

Making high school friends happens gradually after meeting multiple students all at once who are entirely new to you. They come from different schools and it takes awhile to sort out those whose interests are similar to your own. Eventually you become part of their lives outside the classroom and make some great memories with them. These friends are harder to keep in your life as you lose daily contact with them after graduation. Some of them move away and the connection to them is broken. Our high school class is particularly close and fortunately many friendships remain.

College friends can be the most difficult to keep in our lives. Students from different states merge into dorms and classes. You live with them, eat with them and socialize with them. Friendships happen rather quickly since you are with them 24/7. But they seem to end just as quickly as we all move on to wherever our careers take us. For me the four students I was friends with back in the 60s remained in my life until the death of two of them several years ago. As we age, travel is less appealing so the contact with my remaining friends tends to be mostly by email.

Let’s not forget “work friends!” Since we spend about 40 hours a week with co-workers we usually get to know a lot about them. It may take awhile for the “acquaintance status” to become the “friend status” but it happens. I still see friends from the various places I have worked. We get together for lunch or coffee and catch up on where life is taking us.

The category of “special friend” is reserved for those who come into our lives in a non-traditional way. My friend, Betty, who now lives in Utah fits into that category. She was a former student and we had had no contact for over 40 years. We reconnected through a mutual friend and over the past 12 years we have gotten to know one another well enough to transition from “acquaintance” to “friend.” We look forward to getting together when she is in Vermont each summer.

I feel fortunate to have friends in all of the above categories and look forward to seeing each one of them whenever an opportunity presents itself.

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