Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Last week my mother brought me a box of books we had left behind at her old house. I opened it to find ArtGuy's collection of Star Wars novels (which he is a little embarrassed of, but the boys are thrilled about) and our old yearbooks. My entire set of middle school year books were there, as well as a yearbook from 10th grade, and both books from my senior high (grades 11 and 12).

I started to look through them, enjoying pointing things out to the boys - high, hair-spayed hair and the dubious fashions of the 80's and early 90's. Not to mention the funny pictures of the girl who would be their mother; me in my burnt orange volleyball uniform, playing my flute at a pep rally, posed in a group photo.

I have always been shy and awkward. Looking through those books brought a whiff of that time back to me - fear of being noticed, fear of standing out, fear of walking into the lunchroom and having no one to sit with - a fear so paralyzing I never once ate lunch in the cafeteria during 9th and 10th grades. I saw photographs of my former teachers. I was reminded of a few men and women who inspired me in different ways to reach higher or learn deeper. Sometimes the sharp memory surfaced of one or two who saw something in me worth noticing, that "special something" that I rarely seemed to inspire in others. I am eternally grateful for their notice of my gawky self.

But one thing in those books stood out stronger than anything else. Friends. Pictures of my friends in their youth. The pictures brought back memories of ties forged long ago over: creating Dante's circles of hell into a creative project; sweating through another long marching practice on a concrete marching field where the temp registered 128 degrees one hot September afternoon; or working in a small group to learn all the facts there were to know before a big test; passing notes in the midst of a boring science class, hoping against hope Mrs. Trimble would not notice and raise her voice so all could hear - "Cwistine, what arw you doing? Bwing that note wight up here!"

Friends and friendship has been on my mind a lot over the past few months. Friends, true friends, are a precious resource. Real friends do not care how unpopular you are. Real friends always check your teeth after lunch, in case something awful got stuck there. Real friends listen to you mooning about some guy you will never kiss, no matter how much you want to. Real friends rejoice when you meet the right guy and get married. Real friends can meet up after years and still have something to say - the years apart melt away in a magical fashion and you find yourself giggling like girls again. Real friends love you through hard times and have the strength to tell you that you need help when you cannot get out of bed eight months after your sister has passed away. Real friends listen to the tears that flow. Real friends can tell you to stop being stupid when you have an argument over something ridiculous with your husband. Real friendship gives and takes. You know you can be sad or mad to a true friend, even if it lasts a long time, because it is just a season, and your turn for listening will come soon.

In the past few years, the deeper I go into staying at home with children, the thought of friendship seems more and more important to me. I need it. I want it. I have never been good at making it. I am shy and have a hard time just chatting to others. My voice gets lost in a group, and I am never sure what to say. I make friends when and where I can, relishing ties as they are formed, knowing them to be precious.

picture by DuBoix from morguefile

A few times in the recent past, I have seriously misjudged a friendship. Where I thought something was there, there was nothing. Once a person I thought was a friend seemed to cut me out of her life completely, for no reason I could think of. One minute she was there, the next, she could barely form an icy response to my hello. Even though she has accepted my friendship on facebook, she still has not spoken one word to me in a few years. Another time I thought I was forming a friendship, that in reality turned out to be an acquaintanceship. It was a disappointing blow. These I find are things I have to let go of over and over.

As I flipped through the old year books, I greedily read the messages from friends written on the inside covers. Some were from people I have not spoken to in many years, whom I frankly forgot about. Others were from friends who are still friends today.  Those brought such a sense of wonder to my heart. To think of all the years we have known each other. Things are (obviously) not the same now, and we may not share the same kind of relationship as those teenage years, but to think that we have a bond at all, to me, is simply incredible. Incredible in a happy, wonderful way.

Acquaintances are good, too. We all need those. People we can hang out with in a certain group or social situations and have a good time, but there is no demand for anything deeper. But friendship - oh, friendship is like good seasoning in food - it makes life flavorful and interesting.

"Let your acquaintances be many, but one in a thousand your confidant.
When you gain a friend, first test him, and be not too ready to trust him
For one sort of friend is a friend when it suits him, but he will not be with you in time of distress.
Another is a friend who becomes an enemy, and tells of the quarrel to your shame.
Another is a friend, a boon companion, who will not be with you when sorrow comes.
When things go well, he is your other self, and lords it over your servants;
But if you are brought low, he turns against you and avoids meeting you.
Keep away from your enemies; be on your guard with your friends.
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth."
Sirach 6:6-15


Ang said...

I hear ya sista. I've never been good at making friends and I have very few. Jason is always making fun of me because I am jealous that he has strong ties to those he went to high school with, but, I grew up with my family. My cousins were my friends and I guess I felt that's all I really needed. But it does get lonely some times! :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, I did not realize we went to the same schools. I remember Mrs. Trimble and the fear of her calling me out in class. You caught her voice perfectly.

texasmom said...

Really, Stephanie? I didn't know that,either!!!! How funny.
Poor Mrs. Trimble. And there was a boy in my class who got in trouble ALL the time. His name was Jim Ruefner. And when she started yelling at him, it was soooo hard not to laugh!