Malkie Hirsch, Nechama Kamelhar, Yonina Wind, Osey Zinnar and Stephanie Sokol on TJJ Moms Trip

By Malkie Gordon Hirsch Magence

One of my earliest memories of losing a friend was at 6 years old. Leah was a girl who lived a block away from me in Brooklyn and saved the seat next to her on the bus daily and as I’d board the large official looking mode of transport, I knew I’d have a place to belong.

We’d sit next to one another for the short drive to school, mostly talking about what six-year-olds do.

I have funny memories from our short stint as close friends-—her dog Frisky and his frequent accidents on their carpeting, her 2 siblings and the day that she whispered to me that her mother was expecting a baby.

We snuck open her mom’s nursing school textbook to read up what all that meant and discovered the world that was going on in her mother’s reproductive system.

The baby was born, she had a little brother, and they made the decision to move out of New York one summer, as I was upstate in the bungalow colony.

As the oldest in my family, my mother tried explaining this new reality to me once I got home and wanted to make plans with my bestie one block over but then learnt that I’d very likely never get to see her again.

When I found out the news, I felt many emotions—shock at not knowing, betrayal for not being involved in this major life decision of theirs, and a feeling of uncertainty as to who would now fill that friend position.

In the beginning, I was determined to keep up with Leah and have a long-distance friendship.

That is, until my mother discovered that I was speaking to her for hours daily and the monthly phone bill was astronomical.

We limited phone calls to once a week until we each became distracted by life and moved on from the thought that she’d be my friend for life. Even though it was short lived, that friendship is bookmarked in my heart as the earliest of many that have come and gone and some that remain.

There have been friends through many seasons but what of the ones who stick with you through it all?

I’ve been thinking about it lately—the yearning I have for that type of friend.

I’ve had no shortage of different types of friends at various life stages and I almost feel it’s unavoidable.

When I remained single the first time for longer than some, I needed a new group to do single-person activities with.

Someone who wouldn’t pause over the phone and respond that they couldn’t meet up for dinner because their husband was home.

There was the second time around single parashah that was difficult to figure out since there weren’t many widows with young kids who didn’t have the freedom to do Friday night meals or hang out on random nights.

There was and still is the parenthood friendships, where I have attained some of the most meaningful relationships in my life.

As the twilight years of parenting little ones arrived, I realized that I was old enough to be the mother of some of the parents in Rosie’s class and, so while I wasn’t doing coffee with these women, the memories of hanging out with other moms just trying to get through the day filled me with nostalgia.

I do think that if life hadn’t thrown the curveball it had in my life, things might look different.

Friends who faded into the background might still be here if life were able to have alternate endings, but as far as I’m aware, that’s not the case.

There are friends who couldn’t handle a loss like we had and made earlier exits than anticipated.

There were also the ones who weren’t friends who arrived on the scene just as it happened and rolled their sleeves up, ready to witness what it’s like to not really know someone but be there for the unraveling of the life they knew.

Once things calmed down, they exited but I still occasionally get a check in message to see how things are.

There are the friends who I describe as akin to being stuck in a high school class with a bunch of people and just sort of making it work—otherwise known as the neighbors.

Now, I grew up on a small cul-de-sac block where a script writer’s dreams would come true—a few families that surely would be in each other’s homes every day.

Or not really.

Actually, not at all.

But the people on my block couldn’t be any more different if they tried. And when we get together, we have the best time.

My immediate neighbor Aviva likes to remind me that we’d never have anything to do with one another if not for us being next door to one another.

Our age difference or different stage in life, with sprinkling of difference in hashkafah and completely different social circles might slightly contribute to that honest comment.

And I feign shock and disappointment at her comment, but I know she’s right.

Regardless, they’ve been present in my life for the better part of two decades and in a lot of ways, they’re closer to us than actual family.

They’ve had a close up of the babies born and lives beginning, devastating losses with lives ending, the kids sprinkling torn-up Styrofoam all over their front lawn and breaking windows with hockey pucks, the tantrums, the type of honesty that only comes with living so close to someone else.

The people on this block have seen it all and that is why this place is my comfort.

Their friendship and loyalty, unconditional love, and acceptance make it hard to go somewhere that I’d be just another person moving in, with a life story they would know nothing about.

They’re a link to my past in ways others haven’t been.

They really see me, have raised my kids with me and I know that when my kids become adults and look for their homes, I’d wish for them to get what we did when we moved onto this block.

The Rambam writes about three different types of friendships—the ones utilitarian in nature, the friend for mutual benefit, the one for enjoyment, and the one for virtue.

We learn from his teachings and from our own personal experiences that no two people will fulfill the friendships they provide in the same way.

There are friends for the good times and those to whom you need to unload matters of the heart. There are ones who are there for you when you need them but are absent for years in between.

One thing that stood out as I read this was that we’re supposed to love not according to our own traits, but instead to the traits of our friends.

It made me think about the friends I have and have had and the ways they enhanced my life. The virtuous friendship is the highest level where two people are working towards a higher purpose that’s greater than themselves.

It’s the type of relationship that’s ideal in a marriage.

The type of connection that goes beyond judging each word said and action committed that wasn’t something the other would do.

Building that type of relationship with a friend fulfills the need to give and receive at different times. I’ve been privy to all types of friendships. I’ve had people around me who have exhibited love and selflessness even when I couldn’t reciprocate.

I’m beyond grateful to those people (you know who you are) who gave me what I needed when I did. Thank you. n


Malkie Gordon Hirsch Magence is a native of the Five Towns community, a mom of 5, a writer, and a social media influencer.


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