It's a bit disconcerting when you refer to someone you met after you graduated from college as an "old friend".
As it turns out, we are now old, although she is older than me.
The list of what I look for in a friend seems to be formed from a constantly evolving set of criteria. When I was six proximity was key. Mary and Josie lived directly behind us; we all went to the same school, we loved selling lemonade and we liked to ride bikes but most importantly, I could be at their house, unassisted, in about 30 seconds. They were my best friends.
In college geography continued to play an important role in my friend selection, most of my best friends being roommates or those who lived down the hall, but there was more to consider. College friends had to make me laugh, drink beer in dive bars, ride bikes, and understand that there was more to education than what could be learned in a classroom. Commonalities were important; my political science studying self made very few friends in the math department.
When Lisa and I met she was married, lived in an actual house and had a husband who said things like "pick up hotdogs on your way home". It all sounded very grown up and suburban to me. I lived with two other girls in a one bedroom apartment and existed on carry out Chinese food. Clearly we could never be friends.
It seems I was wrong.
Geography doesn't matter so much anymore. My friends don't live next door but I can still get to them, unassisted, when necessary. I don't spend my evenings in dive bars, at least not as often. My current hang out is the neighborhood coffee shop where I routinely run into some of my favorite new friends. It's tea, rather than lemonade or beer, that occupies the middle part of my life.
Rather than find a good fit for me, I now seem to seek out those who are a good fit for us, for all four of us. People who like my children, and people whose children I like. People who are not afraid to point out to my girls that hanging over a high fence above concrete is not probably a good idea, people that I know will catch them when they fall. People who will ride bikes to the beach with us, and whose children might labor along as mine do, because bike riding is still important, even when you're old.
Just like old friends are important, especially those who evolved with my list and went from being exotic home owners to people who collect Nancy Drew books for my children. Friends who happily spend a cool summer evening at the beach, watching our children play in the sand, celebrating 50 wonderful years of being the kind of person you'd really like to have a drink with, be it lemonade, beer or tea.