Did we all have that friend when we were kids? The one that was intertwined with our very self evolution? The memory we keep with us forever? I have written about mine a few times over the years. Her name was Susan. I watched her through the windows of my classroom that looked out on to the courtyard of my old Catholic school. She walked in with her mother to the office to register. I just knew she would be my friend. I prayed that she would be my friend.
She had mousy brown hair, and big glasses. She was very short and was athletically built, even at twelve years old, because she was a competitive figure skater. And sure enough we were fast friends. Her mother said to me one day that she always knew when I was on the telephone because Susan didn’t hang around and chat but would respond quickly, “Meet you in ten minutes!” and would dart out the door. We would meet at the park, ride our bikes, take buses downtown, or just hang out at her house before her parents got home from work. We would watch foreign films and drink too much coffee. We would dance around the living room and stay up late to gaze at the moon. She loved classical music and was intelligent and so, so confident for a teenager. She inspired me to be better. And we made some really great memories.
Then we go through those decades of marriage and raising children and working to make ends meet and before we know it we are middle aged. Oh, we had the kids’ friends’ parents, we have friends we met at work, or we have the couple’s friends. We have old friends and we have family but I always longed for another friend like I had when I was young. I sent up a prayer about it. You can do that.
Well, for the first eight months of our friendship when I would describe her to my kids or tell them what we were up to, I would say, “Oh, she’s like Susan.” My children do not remember Susan- she was their godmother but our fallout was when they were far too young to remember- but they know what I mean because of all the stories I have told to them over the years. Not that she is like Susan, but that our friendship reminded me of the carefree relationships of youth.
Tina took my herb class and that is how we first met. I don’t really open up to many people. So many times I am not what people expect. I must have decided a long time ago that I really didn’t want to be hurt. I started a women’s group at my husband’s recommendation to get me out of the house and meet new people in our new town. One month five of us went to a nearby small town and shopped in the old main street shops. We stopped and had coffee on a patio, our faces to the sun. Tina had offered to carpool with me and as we drove down the mountain she asked me if I wanted to see the house she was building. I was surprised but delighted. I loved the second floor loft of her new home that looked down upon the river and the wildlife. “It’s an Anne of Green Gables room!” I exclaimed. And she knew what I meant.
“Meet you in ten minutes,” one of us will say. To the coffee shop or to the mall or the Riverwalk or to each other’s house.
I was first astounded by her generosity. I have met few people with such a big heart. She and her fiancé (now husband) brought us over a whole truckload of chopped wood, barely knowing us. She is the only one I know who owns all of my books, though I am certain she has little use for them! I officiated their wedding. As we walked down the path along the river talking about this and that and everything, a large owl swooped down in front of us. The trees were filled with leaves and the water from the river was cool. And all was enchanted. Just like when I was young.
Tina is lovely and petite and gracious and funny. Intelligent and kind and heartfelt and authentic. She listens. She talks. She is wonderful to be around, whether in silence or in rapid conversation. I can be myself. She is herself. We are at a stage of life where we can meet in ten minutes. Being older, I appreciate her friendship so much more. I am so lucky that she was sent to be my friend. That she wants to be my friend.
It is her 50th birthday today. I hope you will join me in wishing Tina a very happy birthday. Those friendships that define us and help inspire and build us get better over time and it is never too late to wish for a new best friend.