Young woman helping friend climb up a rock (making mom friends)
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When did you meet your best friend? I bet for some of you, it was way back, as kids. Someone who knew you when — who remembers your first crush, your braces (or perm) stage, and the time the two of you stayed up all night with a Ouija board and a case of Mountain Dew. Someone who can see how you’ve changed over time and has loved you at every turn.

Or maybe your best friend is from college. A pal who recalls your obsession with the dining hall’s fro-yo, your partner in crime on Saturday nights, a support you turned to when you were down or sick or stressed, because your family was miles away. Maybe the two of you have kept in touch since then, scheduling long phone calls and annual girls’ trips to stay close.

Or maybe your best friend became a mom around the same time as you. You might have met in a mothers’ group, or at the neighborhood playground, both mindlessly pushing your babies in the swings — blank, zombie-like stares on your faces. You bonded over the need for coffee, the need for a nap, the need for your kids to nap. You understood each other, and you’ve been together on the mom train ever since.

But me? I met my best friend three years ago, at the age of 42. We were fellow moms of tween daughters who played soccer together (but weren’t close friends), and one summer, our daughters happened to go to the same summer camp. It was the first time they were away from home, and while the girls handled it fine, my friend and I were a bit thrown. We missed them.

So we started to text. Tentative at first, courting each other cautiously. A brief conversation here and there, mostly about the girls. But then we started to get deeper. By getting real about how we were feeling — not just about missing our daughters, but also how glimpsing an eventual empty nest was a bit terrifying — we became close quickly.

And even when the girls returned and the nest was full again, we kept turning to each other. She became my “walk the dog” friend, my “I just had a random interaction at Trader Joe’s and I need to share” friend, my “can we talk about the point of life for a minute” friend, and my “I want to try pickleball, please do it with me” friend.

If I need a friend who I know will say yes to me, I ask her. And when she asks me to do something — anything — I say yes. (Even an overnight trip to go fly fishing, of all things. We haven’t put it on the books yet, but for the record, I said yes — with only a little hesitation.)

Making friends as an adult — and as a mom — can be hard. I’ve had some false starts, where circumstances brought us together but the friendship fizzled out. Like when you become friends with your children’s friends’ parents. Sometimes those friends are simply the people it makes sense to hang around at the time — which is also nice and super convenient — but once your kids aren’t close, the friendship doesn’t stand on its own. And as our kids get older, we begin to understand that we don’t have as much say over who they’re friends with. They get to choose.

And so do we. We choose who we bring into our lives — who we confide in about our marriages and our vericose veins, who we try new things with (like fly fishing — why, oh why), who we shed a tear with, who we join for an impromptu dance party in a living room on a Thursday night.

One of the best parts of making new friends at this stage of life is that it makes me more aware of who I am as a friend. I can’t phone it in, with 40 years of shared history to fall back on. I don’t take my bestie for granted, and that’s reminded me to also be more appreciative of — and show my appreciation for — my other friends, new ones and old ones. Send a funny text out of the blue. Mail a postcard after a trip. Pick up the phone. I guess, ultimately, I’ve been reminded that friendships need a little nurturing.

And that the very best ones are worth it. 

Jessie Keppeler
A Maine native, Jessie migrated down the coast to Boston after college, and it’s been home ever since. She has lived in various corners of the city — from Allston and Brighton to Newbury Street and then Jamaica Plain — before settling in Brookline with her husband and three daughters. As much as she loves home now, she also likes to leave occasionally: recent family travels include Italy, Belize, and Washington D.C. Jessie writes with a cat curled up nearby and a dog at her feet. And a cup of coffee. Always.

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