I’m visiting my parents in Florida this week and I’ve driven them a little bit crazy by wanting to spend time with friends.

The list of friends I want to see is much longer than our number of days in Florida, so, sadly, I accepted that it won’t be possible to see everyone.

Though I can’t see everyone, I’m trying to see as many as possible, which means that my folks have been driving me all over (and entertaining my kids, in some cases) so that I can get my friend fix.

Last night, we stopped by the home of a friend who hadn’t been on my list, mostly because I hadn’t remembered she lived down here.

I hadn’t seen Lora in nearly 12 years, and during that time we each had three kids. We met in college, freshman year, and remained close friends until I graduated from college a semester early, during our senior year. When I got married just after that, I asked her to be one of my two maids of honor.

I haven’t done a great job of staying in touch with college friends over the years; Lora and I have seen each other only twice in the years since my wedding.

She doesn’t spend much time on Facebook but she happened to be online Wednesday, noticed my  updates about being in Florida, and suggested we get together.

And, after a hot, sticky day at Sea World that ended abruptly with a thunderstorm and downpour, we found our way to her home.

Our daughters instantly bonded over Squinkies and Little People, while my mother doted over Lora’s newborn son.

She shared an album of pictures from our college days, and I felt the ease that you can only feel with an old friend.

After a visit that felt much too short, we hugged goodbye with promises to talk soon, but not before I realized something significant about the beauty of old friends.

Old friends can be a mirror to remind us of who we are. Our shared history allows them to fill in the gaps of our memory, bringing understanding to our view of the past.

For example: what I remember most clearly about college is how hard I worked. When I talk about college, I tell people that what I did most was study: long Saturdays at the library, followed by an occasional dinner uptown. So I asked Lora if I remembered that part correctly. Yes, she affirmed, that’s pretty much how it was.

I'm the one who's hiding from the camera. 1989, freshman year at Miami University.

The beauty of old friends is that they can recognize those parts of us that remain unchanged. I overheard Lora saying something to my mother about how she remembered me as being so ambitious in those days. So I told her how people sometimes describe me now as driven, and I asked her if she sees me that way. Yes, always. You have always been. 

The beauty of old friends is that they are ties to parts of ourselves that we may have let go, beautiful parts that we can reclaim and revisit. I can consider: Who was I in college that I am not (exactly) anymore? And how can I find her again?

And the beauty of old friends is that they can see who we are now and appreciate how far we’ve come. New friends can only view us through what they see now. But an old friend can see both who I was and who I have become, and she can, perhaps, appreciate me more fully because of that knowledge. She can mentally juxtapose my 18 year old self with the 41 year old me. She can see more than my change in hair color or the pounds I’ve added around my middle. She can appreciate and accept me and the journey I’ve traveled, all while I’m seeing, appreciating, and enjoying how far she’s come.

Tell me something! What do you enjoy about old friends? What parts of yourself have you abandoned? What parts of yourself would you like to reclaim?