Archive for July 31, 2012

Friendship Personified

I have a dear friend whom I’ve known since fourth grade.  Early in our friendship I learned that she’d had open-heart surgery shortly after she was born.  I’d heard tales of my own birth trauma, but her scars were much more exotic, her story, more dramatic.

Drama visited her again in the form of a stroke the summer between fifth and sixth grades.  I’m sure much hard work went on behind the scenes, but at the time, it was just my pal – now left-handed, with a barely perceptible hitch to her gait – back in school and as spirited as ever.

Sometimes I think we need to tell our personal heroes that they are just that.  This is my clumsy, belated attempt.

Dear Rae,

When my mom and I traveled back to Michigan for your high school graduation, you and I exchanged senior pictures.  On the back of yours you wrote, in part, “To Sue Anne:  What can I say to one of my oldest friends?”

That could be a segue to a bad joke about our current “ripeness” of age, but instead I find myself waxing nostalgic, and tempted to open this birthday letter with the same sentiment.

So, what can I say, on this special occasion, to one of my oldest friends?  I suppose I could tell you that I have long been inspired by the example of your tenacity as an eleven-year-old boldly confronting challenges no child should ever have to face, or that I am still warmed to the cockles by shared memories of our carefree childhood:

The sleepovers; the hours spent plotting how to use our clothing allowance; your teaching me how to “rat” my hair; our daring attempt at highlighting our bangs with – gasp! – hydrogen peroxide, with predictably disappointing results; the time we experimented with leaving a grape in a dish of pop overnight, because some scientist had said that cola could corrode your stomach lining and we wanted to see for ourselves; the iced Cokes, hot, home-baked Chef Boyardee pizzas, and gooey chocolate cake, eaten while sprawled on your parents’ living room floor, watching television late into the night.

Or our shared love of animals and playing with your hamster Snuffy; your private collection of ceramic figurines; shopping for baby doll blouses and just the right black leather flats for school; the search for the perfect oxford cloth, button-down-collar blouse, to wear with our crew-neck sweaters and plaid wool kilts, with their decorative safety pins; the time we had to dash out of that trendy little ice cream parlor, incapacitated by a fit of the giggles, before we could even place our orders; my big brother’s attempts to impress you with his goofy antics; horseback riding; Halloween nights visiting the Millers’ garage for cider and donuts.

Still, I think the thing that moves me the most is your long-term loyalty to your friends.  More selfishly, how this appreciative friend benefited from that sterling trait.  I had let you down once in our 20s, when I was living a life of turmoil and I stood you up for a dinner invitation.

Then, out of embarrassment and immaturity, I let us lose contact as I zigzagged aimlessly down the bumpy path of my youth.  Yet years later, when my life was back on course and I tracked down our mutual friend, Anita, she read you my note over the telephone and you were right back in my life again, via a warm and welcoming letter, reaching out to me almost 1600 miles away in Minnesota.

What a door to future delights that letter opened up!  After two-plus decades of being out of touch, soon we were there at your doorstep in Florida, having a reunion. (more…)

July 31, 2012 at 5:17 pm 4 comments

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