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  • Writer's pictureMarilyn Saltzman

Friends New and Old

“Make new friends, but keep the old;

One is silver and the other’s gold.”

So went the Girl Scout song we sang in summer camp as we skipped, arm-in-arm, down the grassy green hills of the Catskill Mountains. At the ripe age of 11, I had no real clue as to the meaning of “old friends.” Maybe Johnny in kindergarten who had an amazing knack for drawing horses?

In the decades since summer camp, the refrain has taken on much more significance. As I open cards from friends new and old during this holiday season, I am grateful to relive the feeling of camaraderie the lyrics invoke, and I quietly hum the melody.

It’s the one time of year I look forward to the mail, which brings holiday greetings and updates rather than bills, donation requests and uninvited catalogues. The correspondence comes from friends whom we still see regularly and from those whose annual letters are the only way we keep in touch.

There’s the card from my first friend in Colorado, Chehui. We worked together in the bookkeeping department at ML Foss in 1970. She hosted my baby shower for Kevin, and a few years later, we gave her our crib when her son, Christopher, was born.

A photo card from Teresa reminds me of the days when I used her home fax machine, well after she was in bed, to transmit stories to The Denver Post. It was back in the late 1970s, and I hadn’t yet merited a machine of my own. So I drove to Teresa’s place in Arvada after a lengthy Wheat Ridge City Council meeting to file my report.

There are notes from Jan’s clan. When we met, her youngest child was still in diapers. Now her oldest is about to become a grandpa! BJ and Bud, dear friends for decades, even included a picture of our family in their letter this year.

I love the pictures and the stories from my old Jeffco Schools buddies ­­­– Christian’s girls growing up in Washington, Carol’s sons becoming successful adults, Tanya’s travels near and far with Bruce.

Then there is the inevitable heartbreak of growing older. Going through my address labels, I found myself removing names of spouses due to death or divorce. Our first friends as a married couple were Dennis and Camille, with whom we kept in touch only through holiday letters because of our geographic distance. It broke my heart when Dennis wrote that Camille, my fellow first-year English teacher in 1968 at JHS 49, Staten Island, had died of cancer. I will never forget stringing popcorn to decorate the tree for their first Christmas as a married couple. I can still hear our laughter and feel our joy as I write through a veil of tears. It’s a powerful reminder that old friends truly are gold because the memories endure even if the friendship is just a “same time next year” note.

During this holiday season, I can’t help but also think about the hundreds of people I have met over the years ­­­­– through school, work, professional organizations and neighborhoods ­­­­– with whom I have lost touch. Thanks to Facebook, I have reconnected with some of them, like Marlene, Bev, Sheila, Paul and Sandy from PS 233, Meyer Levin JHS and Tilden HS. Yet others reside only in my memory. I wonder, “What ever happened to …?” It makes me value the connections that endure even more.

So dear loyal readers, I wish you the happiest of holidays and a joyful 2022, blessed with friends new and old.

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