I’ve always been the friend who puts in more of an effort, sometimes to a fault, holding on to a friendship long past its expiration date. I write birthday cards and send care packages to friends who can hardly keep plans to have lunch together. I’ve never been able to easily give up on a friend, even when he or she has done me wrong and even when I know that if I wasn’t the one making the effort, the friendship would vanish into thin air. Yes, true friends can go months without speaking and when they finally come back together again it’s as if nothing has changed, but I will never understand how people can move on with their lives so easily, losing a friend out of shear laziness. The truth is that most friendships come and go, but every once in a while you’re lucky enough to find a lifelong friend who will never give up on staying close, and when you do, hold on to that friendship and never let it go.
My family has a friend like this, a woman named Andy who has stayed closer to us living halfway around the world than some friends have living 10 minutes down the street. She lived with us as our au pair for two years when I was a toddler, before moving to Florida and then back home to Hungary. Andy became a household name, and growing up, I’d always heard stories about her, but because I was only three years old when she left, that’s all she ever was to me – a character from a story. Recently, I had the chance to change that by staying with Andy and her family during my trip to Budapest.
Immediately upon meeting Andy at the bus stop, I felt comfortable with her, despite only knowing the character I’d heard from stories, seen in photos, and occasionally waved to on Skype, and it was easy to see why my parents loved her so much. Automatically feeling comfortable with someone you don’t even remember and are only consciously meeting for the first time is a complicated feeling to explain, especially since I’m not exactly sure why that feeling came over me…is it because she used to change my diaper, and once someone’s changed your diaper, you really have nothing else to hide?
I spent five days finally getting to know this woman whom I’d always heard so much about and listening to her funny stories about living with my family almost 20 years ago. In a sense, Andy feels like another aunt to me. I didn’t have to explain anything to her about my family or my home, because she understood it all, and we spent hours laughing as she told me all of the crazy things my parents and siblings used to do and how even back then my dad referred to our home as a zoo. It must have been a strange feeling for her too, meeting this new Juliet, the one who is no longer in diapers drinking from a sippy cup, but now 19 years old traveling on her own in Europe. Nowhere in her mind 17 years ago would Andy have thought that little 2-year-old Juliet would be showing her the hottest bar in Budapest or that I would become as much of a friend to her as my parents are.
From now on, it won’t just be my parents sending Andy updates, because now that I’ve met the real one, not the character, I never want to go back to solely relying on the memories and stories. And maybe I have to accept that not all of my friends will put in an effort to keep in touch and that maybe this is okay, because only then will I learn who my true friends really are.