During my recent visit to my adopted hometown of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., I was asked whether I would consider moving back there.
"I love it here," I replied. "It's home. I just don't think it's the right place for me to be living, at least right now."
Funny, isn't it, how some places fit at some points in your life, but not at others?
Still, being back there, I had the sense of comfort and security I don't have anywhere else -- not in Chattanooga, not in my native New York City, not in any of the places I lived briefly, like Chicago or Belgium. Sure, some things have changed, but it feels the same to me.
So do my friends. Certainly, our topics of conversation are different, and we are perhaps not as generous with certain affections as we were a decade ago, but the warmth, trust and ease I feel is the same as it's always been.
I've written before about the challenges of maintaining the friendships of youth as you age. What I appreciate so much about these particular friends -- this family of which I've been a part -- is that we have somehow managed to grow without completely growing apart.
Oh, we're not like the gang on "Friends" or anything. We all live in different states, are busy with our own lives, families, relationships, careers; but when we are together, I never feel like time and distance have eroded the sense of comfort and belonging we have to one another.
The people who can offer the same sense of home that a place can give are rare. I've been fortunate to have a few friends who are steadfast and consistent. Our relationships aren't the same in our early 30s as they were in our early 20s, but they've evolved to accommodate the people we are now.
I've also watched friendships fade, sometimes through a simple lack of being nurtured, because they weren't strong enough to survive without attention.
I've watched friends change for the worse, seen their disappointment in my own changes, and mourned the loss of relationships I'd once thought would be "forever." God, I hate that word. It's so pop song.
Funny thing. I was cleaning out some old things while visiting my parents a couple weeks ago and I came across a something called a "Friendship Notebook" -- a mostly blank book, which included some quotes about friendship and instructions for writing particular memories and milestones on particular pages.
The book was a 13th birthday gift from a girlfriend I'd had as an adolescent. We were very close at the time -- enjoying gymnastics classes, having sleepovers, talking about boys and family, helping each other through problems like her struggles with early development and my frustration with peers who found me "weird." I know I was very grateful to have such a friend.
She'd gone ahead and filled in some of the pages of the book, indicating where I should write in the rest of them.
"I know that no matter what," she wrote, "we will be friends forever."
She meant it, I know, with all her heart, as only a 13-year-old girl can.
We lost touch a year later when she transferred schools.