So, I have this friend… Seriously — I do have friends! We’ve been friends for more than 20 years…21? 22? A long time, in other words. And we’ve done a lot of cool things together, and seen each other through job shifts, illnesses, promotions, and all the daily events that close friends share. At one point, we were even in a writing group together. Friendship, in other words.
But we live nowhere near each other these days, and haven’t spent quality time together in years. Because she lived where I worked, I didn’t have strategies in place that would remind me I had to make more of an effort when I retired. Sure — she came to the annual Girlfriends Holiday Tea. And I tried to see her when she came to town. But it wasn’t like before, when we dropped in on each other’s office.
She’s one of those friends that somehow manages to encourage you to move forward. I have a couple of those — it’s great. This one seems to always know the right book for the right moment. The right joke when you’re ready to slit your wrists. The right lunch when you can’t face another day of writing. Mostly, though? She’s funny, and smart, and kind, and just my very dear girlfriend.
But like I said, we haven’t had much contact in a while. So she messages me on FB, and asks for my address. Okay, I figure: maybe she has a new book? Or just a card...? Then the mail comes, and it’s… The Poet Tarot!! How cool is THAT?? And how the heck did she know I’ve been returning to my old hippie roots, and had bought several tarot decks as I try to find out which one suits me in this very different chapter of my life…? And that the one she sent me — where e.e.cummings is the Fool, and William Carlos Williams the Magician, and Denise Levertov the World — would be so totally perfect??
That’s the power of real friendship, folks: the ability to listen to someone you love, and give them not only what they want or need, but what will help them grow. As I make time to pick up grandsons, cook for family, clean this beautiful new house, plant seeds to grow into 4 o’clocks my mother loved, water birds, and DO THINGS, I haven’t been writing. You noticed, right?
But this way, with these beautiful new cards (Lucille Clifton, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes, Emerson…), I can think of writing completely differently. More like what I used to tell students: a kind of practice. Meaning, I don’t have to worry so much about getting it ‘right.’ Much less perfect!
The sheer diversity of writers — Emily Dickinson & Edgar Allen Poe! — is freeing. If all of these wonderful, amazing poets can overcome slavery (Phyllis Wheatley), insanity (Poe), depression (Robert Lowell), and more, I can find my way home to writing. I can do this!
Thanks, Becky. Once again, you nailed it. And I’m so very happy you did!
I never take friendship for granted. As a child, a teen, and then an adult, I moved too often to keep most friends I made along the way. There is one man from my senior year I still correspond with, via FB. I’m sure he has no idea how dear he is to me, not only for this important singularity, but also because for some unknown reason he values my friendship, too.
Over the years, I have lost far more friends than I have kept, most from the attrition of too many moves and too little time together. My oldest dear friend and I have worked hard to maintain the precious friendship that blossomed unexpectedly as we worked together years ago: over the more than 10 years we’ve lived across the country from each other, we’ve scheduled visits, telephone calls, FaceBook messages & Google Hangouts. Sent cards & presents. Tried hard to safeguard the fragile cup that holds this infinitely precious elixir.
That’s what it is, friendship. A kind of magic draught that confers an inner sense of worth & comfort. Even if it sneaks up on you sometimes, blindsides you with how much you didn’t realise you needed it right that minute. In, for instance, a made-with-love&care box of biscotti, colouring book postcards carefully tucked in. Just because she can, a newer friend says in a short note (no effusiveness for this girl!).
Perhaps because I don’t take my friends for granted, I’m always surprised I have any! Please rest assured: I’m not playing the poor pitiful me card. I just know that I prose on far too much about esoteric subjects ~ tea, for instance. Who other than my younger son really wants to discuss the difference between a jasmine tea made with black tea leaves and a jasmine made with a far gentler combo of green & white teas? Who wants to hear me wax rhapsodic about an obscure poet, or try to process my dog’s brain tumour? Who cares that my grandson told me his newest great thing?
My friends. The infinitely treasured men and women who have managed to wriggle past my fairly strong external personality — the voice that can part a sea of supermarket shoppers, the highly opinionated newshound, the besotted grandmother, the horrible punster. To whatever it is they see beneath that fairly thick veneer.
There’s the man I met in a book club he started at my former employer’s: he let me in to his deep grief when his beloved partner died. The dear girlfriend I mentioned earlier, who solaced me during a very bad patch of life, but can also make me laugh until I snort tea through my nose. The woman I met in a writing workshop, the friend of another dear friend, who became my own friend, making me laugh when I needed to, bringing me homemade comfort treats because she could. The man who worked with me, who shared his dreams of home & happiness with me. The younger girlfriend who doesn’t take a busy ‘no’ for an answer, and cajoled me into tea at her house, with her adorable 2-year-old.
And of course there are my sisters. But somehow, you expect your sisters to love you. At least in my family we do, a family of 3 generations of sister/friends.
So here’s to friends, who don’t just tolerate our idiosyncracies, but celebrate them! Who talk too loud with us, bake for us, share their kids with us, show us their cat & dog pics, recommend books, send us music… In other words? Here’s to the friends who share their lives with us. I don’t deserve mine, but I’m profoundly grateful they don’t seem to know that.