Back home over Christmas, columnist Paula Dubbink met up with her old friends. Not even so long ago, she saw some of them daily and at the time she wished that everything would stay the same. And fortunately, in some way it has.
It’s early January, and the eight of us sit around a table in the center of Utrecht. A table filled with good food and with my contribution to the dinner: julmust. Unlike my parents, my Dutch friends surprisingly appreciate this “failed coke”, as I have chosen to introduce it.
We have loads to catch up on. Since the last time we met, this summer, the only married couple in the group got pregnant. Or actually…they are no longer the only married couple. Two others became husband and wife in a small wedding ceremony lately. Those two are now the first to have bought a house. Other people got new jobs, had a birthday or simply started a new hobby.
If we were featured in ‘Friends’, I’m quite sure that the last episode would have been sent quite some years ago – “The one where everyone gradually moved to other cities.”
But in what seems eras ago, I saw most of them a lot more often than nowadays. During my bachelor program, a few were my housemates for an entire year. Regularly we would have afternoons where we played music together, overcoming the lack of suitable sheet music, sufficient music stands and (in some cases) talent. We cooked together, sang in a choir and we went on holidays in summer.
It was great to belong to a somewhat larger group of friends and already at the time I got slightly pessimistic by the idea that all of that would change at some point. Despite knowing better, I imagined that nothing would change. All of us would stay in Utrecht. And we would all in some miraculous way manage to stay students in eternity, so that we could continue to bake pancakes on a random week day around lunch time. Needless to say both phantasies didn’t really come true. And while I stayed true to the second point – I am the only student left in the group – I am quite guilty of breaking ‘staying in Utrecht’.
Does it matter that we now only see each other a few times a year?
Yes, it does somewhat. Because always when we catch up, I realize that I have missed their company, while that in Sweden usually doesn’t bother me. I sadly realize that it was a time that was, and that it is gone.
And at the same time, it doesn’t matter at all. Because if international life has taught me something, it is that friendship should not be dependent on the amount of times one sees each other. That Friday night earlier this month, we were back in the old patterns within minutes.
The food preparations are divided without too many necessary words. We all take up our roles in the conversation. We know which questions to ask, we share our topics to talk about, we know how to make fun of the others – and of ourselves.
Time might pass, but some things never change.