Ode to Friendship

Please allow me to be a little sappy tonight.

I am awash with love for all things friendship right now. I’m lying in bed with a homemade warm, aromatic, herbal heating pad keeping my toes warm, listening to the ultimate friend gift – a mix ‘tape’ (a CD actually, but like just like I can’t say anything BUT ‘roll’ down the car window, I also can’t say anything BUT mix ‘tape.’). I also have in my possession a lovely reminder that in the midst of great depression I can still find JOY.

These are all gifts from friends who love, who listen, who pay attention.

These are gifts that are not only the perfect gift FOR me, but they also reflect the personality of the giver. Each one comes with its own special way of beckoning me to smile, to think about the giver, and to see myself the way others see me, which is usually better than how I see myself.

These are the women who stay after, like the friends of Sally Field in Steel Magnolias who follow her down the road after Julia Roberts’ funeral in anticipation of being needed. They don’t need to be asked, they are just there.

I have SO not been into Christmas this year. I unpacked all the decorations and they still sit on the table. I let the tree die and all its needles are falling off. I piled a bunch of clutter in front of the manger scene. I didn’t start thinking about Christmas presents until yesterday.

These gifts given to me, and the friendships they represent, bring me hope and joy during a time of great emotional weight and apathy – not because they are things to behold, but because the act of giving came from a love that reflects a Greater love.

Thank you, from the deepest part of my heart, thank you.

Year of the Crystal

I always feel a bit reminiscent on my birthday because it also marks the anniversary of my arrival in Seattle, of the day I left home forever, of the day I met my lifelong friends. I spent my eighteenth birthday on an airplane, terrified and excited about my new adventure.

Inevitably I think back to the first time I met my new family. I was wearing a plaid skirt and I probably looked like I was twelve years old. Alecia had a perm. The names on the door across from mine were Sarah and Larah, and before I met those girls and realized one was a Philippina and one was ghostly white, I thought they might be twins. Kristin tried to convince everyone that her hair was naturally blond. My roommate was Genevieve, a sophomore. She was bold and confident and popular, and seemed invincible to me.

In 1996 I was living in New York, and on my birthday my friends, led by Sarah, sent me a memory book they made of our friendship to date. In it, they recapped the first few birthdays we spent together:

I remember how you used to sit and sulk on your birthday because no one paid attention to it (it being the first day of school and all). Let’s have a revue of the last five big B-days:

#1: We completely overlooked it because, heck, we hardly knew you.
#2: We forced you out of bed and dragged you to Red Robin where you paid for your own meal.
#3: We can’t remember what happened this year (1992), we think Jeff took you out, but we are not sure.
#4: This year we had a party at the girls’ house. You wore a green sweater. That’s the extent of my memory.
#5: This year was the big hooplah. This year made up for the other years. The 70s party was the event of the season and Chris’ suit was the envy of all.

And now we are celebrating birthday number six. Do you feel old yet? Don’t expect me to keep track after this year.

Tonight I will see my friends, and we will drink, and we will toast to our friendship of fifteen years, and we will likely choke at the realization that we are old enough to have known each other for so long.

I’m not usually one to feel like I’m old. Having children doesn’t make me feel old, driving a minivan doesn’t make me feel old, even gaining a few pounds doesn’t make me feel old.

What makes me feel old is when college students call me ma’am, when they say to me that U2 must be really important to my generation, and when I start a story with the words, “Fifteen years ago, when I was in college…”

But I guess maybe if I really thought about it, I feel old in the way wine ages. Wine tastes better with age, its flavor is reminiscent of its beginnings, and the oak barrel infuses its spice and vanilla aroma. Exposure to oxygen changes the wine.

Everything that touches wine – from the grape, to the barrel, to the type of glass we pour it into, to the air we breath – it all influences its outcome, its flavor, its impact on who comes in contact with it. We reject distasteful wine and we savor beautiful wine.

I feel beautiful in my age because of all that has touched me. Thank you.


My friend relayed a story to me last night about one of her childhood friends whose husband just checked into a 90-day program for drug addiction. Together they have three children.

Their youngest is only three weeks old.

As the friend who is closest to all the tension that lies between Bryan and I, who has been my sounding board and, at times, our mediator, she told me this story as a loving reminder of all we have to be thankful for in the midst of our complicated lives.

I love my friend for this reason.

She is able to empathize, to listen, to offer encouragement, to validate. Then she’ll turn me around, bend me over, and give me a solid kick in the ass for good measure, just to keep me from wallowing and feeling indignant.

I love that.

My Coming-Out Party

I have a friend who likes people.

I know this because I’ve seen her talk to them. A couple weeks ago we were walking together on a trail near my home, and she actually smiled and said “good morning” to every person we passed. I walk this same trail several times a week, and it never occurred to me to speak to any person I encounter along the way.

I do not like people.

I’m so incapable of small talk that I let Bryan hold our stationary three month old after church so I can busy myself with chasing our two year old around the building and not be committed to any particular conversation (“Oh, excuse me, I think I just saw Ruthie throw herself in front of a truck.”)

I envy my Friend Who Talks to People.

Lately there has been a homeless woman who camps out in the parking lot across the street from my house. She has two or three shopping carts full of belongings that she moves around town with her. The first time I saw her I didn’t know what to do about it. She talked to herself quite a bit, but seemed harmless so I didn’t want to complain to the police about her. So in my attempts to be more compassionate and people-oriented in the vein of my Friend Who Talks to People I tried to come up with something to say to this woman.

But what do I say? Do I bring her food? Do I offer to help her find a shelter? How involved should I get, and is it wrong for me to have to think so hard about it?

In the end I caved to my own weakness, chickened out, and decided to call my Friend Who Talks to People because she will become this homeless woman’s best friend from the first warm smile and the sort of hug that only my Friend Who Talks to People can give.

Wouldn’t you know it, before I even had a chance to tell her about the homeless woman she had already sat on the curb to chat with her, learned her name, her life story, and how she became homeless. The next thing I knew, my Friend Who Talks to People was loading this woman’s belongings into the back of her minivan so the woman could check herself into a homeless shelter!

Now, why didn’t I think of that?

When I lived in New York I had a friend named Grace who was a gregarious Italian from Brooklyn. She loved people so much her husband used to tease her that she’d strike up a conversation with a light pole: “So tell me Light Pole, how long have you been standing there?” I found her magnetic personality refreshing and entertaining, if not a bit tiring at times. She was more than just my muse, though. I watched her. I paid attention to what she did and said to complete strangers. I found that she was compassionate, that kindness oozed from her like honey.

The other day as I walked the trail with my two kids in the double stroller and my dog, Scout, on her leash, I got the usual amount of comments regarding how full my hands must be (blah blah blah), and I started to think about my Friend Who Talks to People, and my friend Grace, and even my sister who visited from a whole other state and STILL said hello to people she FOR SURE wouldn’t know.

And I thought to myself, How hard can this really be? I mean, it must be in my genes if my OWN MOTHER can become best friends with the labor nurse over the course of my daughter’s entry into this world (picture a lighthearted chat about how hot the weather is this time of year in Minnesota while I am naked, squatting on a ball, and groaning like a boar in heat).

So I started saying “good morning” to the people I passed on the trail that morning, and a strange thing happened… people smiled at me! And they said hello, and they didn’t shoot poison darts at me or punch me in the nose or laugh at me!

THEN I got all crazy and everything and asked for this gal’s phone number who’s daughter was in the same tumbling class as my daughter because I thought we could get together for a play date once the class ended. But whoa, that ended up to be WAY too much friendliness for me and I have yet to pick up the phone to call her because what on earth would I SAY?


Like Bill Murray in “What About Bob?” I’ll just have to take baby steps.

Hump Day

I love Wednesdays.

Wednesday is my favorite day of the week. Fridays are pretty cool, too. And Saturday is usually fun. Sunday ranks pretty high, being the Lord’s Day, but Wednesday is definitely my favorite day of the week.

On Wednesday I don my inner Ya-Ya persona with the ladies as our petite ya-yas flitter about from slide to pool to trampoline. I live for this day. I sleep in, I make pancakes, we eat leftovers for dinner, because on Wednesday mamma takes the day off!

I am a firm believer that everyone needs at least one friend. I had one friend for over ten years and she’s great. Really. She is still a very dear friend. But I’ve recently come to realize the benefits of a plurality of friends. A symphony, if you will, of girls who know me deeply. Girls who reassure me that I’m not a bad mother because I take Zoloft; who routinely offer me margaritas; who make me laugh until I pee; who love my kids so much they’re not afraid to open The Can when one gets out of line.

I find that any inclination I may have had on Tuesday to accidentally leave my children in the McDonald’s play land seems to dissipate on Thursday because of Wednesdays.

If you are reading this and you are having a bad day, turn off the computer and call a friend.