As a side line to family history, today I feel the need to write about "friendship trees". There is much debate in the modern media about whether friends are the new family. An article I read recently laid this idea firmly at the door of the Nineties and said that the programme Friends promoted the feeling amongst twenty somethings that a good group of friends was all you needed.
Well that was me, a twenty something in the Nineties. And yes, I had a group (or rather various groups) of solid friends, many of whom I am still in touch with. However, I am not sure why this should be regarded as having been a bad thing. I was living with just my now husband in London. We knew no-one when we got there. Gradually a couple of university friends were there too but we had initially to make our own way in the Big Smoke. We were grateful to meet like minded people!
I do think though that it would be interesting to one day draw a friendship tree as opposed to a family tree. Last night I was out for dinner with a friend whom I have known since we were pregnant together with our first children. We met when we were huge and bobbing around in an antenatal swimming class (the water displacement was terrifying!) and we have laughed and cried together ever since. I could not manage without her.
But she is part of a lifelong tapestry of friends. School, university, carefree twenties, baby groups, friends met on holidays, school gate friends. All precious in their own ways. Tonight we have friends staying with us who were at school with my husband, tomorrow we are meeting relatively recent new friends for lunch.
Obviously solid groups of friends are not a modern phenomenon. If we could visit our ancestors in their own time, we would find that although they loved their families, they had friendships that they valued immensely - many probably more than family. Of course they did!
So when we draw our family trees, it is interesting to speculate on the "secondary" relationships that we can't see. Who helped that person when they went bankrupt? Which friend did my great great grandmother turn to when she lost a baby? These are the unseen and forever lost stories. A family tree, as I have pondered on a number of posts recently, does not show the whole story of our ancestors' lives.
In writing a memoir for our descendants, in labelling photos, maybe it is the friends that we should take extra care over. Too often we get an old photo out and say things like "oh, there is granny but who is that person with her?" when actually that person was probably a huge part of granny's life.
Like most of us, I have many layers of friends. My husband and I used to throw a lot of parties in London and many of our friend groups know each other. There was even a marriage thanks to one of our parties - a childhood friend of my husband's best friend with one of my best university friends!
Maybe I should start to write some of this down somewhere as well as looking at my family history. Some kind of Venn diagram maybe?! Or in years to come, when they get out the dusty old photo albums, my children will be spending a lot of time saying things like "well that's mum there but who are the other people standing in the fountain with her?" and "that seems to be a wedding, but who are all the people doing the weird synchronised dance with her".....