We’ve just done those awkward zoom goodbyes that happen after a large-ish zoom call.
The sort that leaves the remnants scrabbling to find the leave button so that they’re not the last on the screen, and means that the last sighting is often of foreheads leaning in as fingers race to reach the red toggle.
The call was a joy though, because it was a celebration of my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. The ruby year, which my Dad seems to have served through abundant red roses rather than any grand jewelled item. And my Mum seems to be delighted so all is well.
It was a call that included extended family, but also a collection of old friends who have journeyed with my parents through the last few decades – there at the wedding, many of them in the picture before my parents met, and all of them very much still in their lives.
My parents are good at marriage, and they are also ‘really good at friendship’, as one of our zoom guests said. Grace and humour characterises much of what they are about, and I think that is true of the way they are with each other as well as with other people.
They value people, and so they invest in their friendships. Investment that looks like detouring from a straightforward route to drop in on someone for a cup of tea; or always being up for a kitchen supper and chatting over whatever has been found in the store cupboards to eat; or organising a meal out and inviting friends from different arenas who they think would get on; or simply picking up the phone with no purpose other than to catch up and converse.
My Dad, until recently, played tennis with the same three or four friends every summer’s Monday up in Oxfordshire. We used to live up there, which is why that was the location but as we moved south, work trips to Oxford were inevitably organised around the precious and brilliant tennis four. Various levels of tennis on show, but steady and stellar quality of friendship sustained over the net but also in the pub afterwards. Sadly two of the four are no longer with us. My Mum still does a three hour round trip every month or so to have a meal with her Oxfordshire bookclub which she started over thirty years ago. Friends who have gathered over books for years, and walked through life’s travails and joys at the same time. A long-standing, unshakeable group of friends.
For those who live nearby, there’s always an open door, a walk to go on, a tennis match to play or a trip out for meal or a drink. Or simply a phone call made while perched in the corner of the kitchen.
There have been various celebratory parties over the years for wedding anniversaries and birthdays, and every time I’m amazed and in awe of the amount of people who are in the room and have travelled from far and wide in order to raise a glass to my beautiful parents.
I’m inspired by them, and long to be such a testimony to friendship as they are at their stage of life. I’ve definitely sought to imitate them in the efforts they go to for the sake of the people they love, and I pray that it would be a sustained characteristic in my life as much as it is in theirs.