Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In Celebration of Friendship

A month ago I met two friends of mine from my early days of teaching at Douglas County HS-- both of them out of education since the mid 80s -- one to become a mom, the other because of illness. Here we were almost thirty-five years later, sitting in an Italian restaurant and laughing heartily with each other about the “old days” and “do you remember” as well as listening to the heart-ache, disappointments, and losses of our lives. Our three hour lunch flew by, and we walked away promising to see each other “soon” as opposed to later. So much more time behind us than ahead, we vowed to have regular lunches together to reminisce and share our lives more often than every three years.

Today, I met a more recent colleague, a young teacher with just ten years of teaching under his belt and with a lot more time ahead of him than behind him. Just like the friends from thirty-five years ago, he and I laughed, talked about the students that he was currently teaching that I had also taught (this year’s graduating class will be the last of my former students), and fretted and harped about the frustrations of the job, including the impossible task it is sometimes to deal with the classroom.

Amazing how the working relationship in a teaching environment lends itself to such ties and bonds. It’s a good thing.

Friendships are such a precious commodity that when I find those good ones, I know I need to feed and water them. I want to grow old with them. I want to talk to them on a regular basis -- be in touch with them. I have tried over the years to stay in touch with friends, to nurture them, but sometimes, friendships that seem so tight, so secure, can float away.

My first best friend was Marcie. Marcie lived next door, and she was the oldest of four. I was the youngest of four, and my oldest brother was just eleven years younger than Marcie’s mother. In fact, my mother was old enough to be Marcie’s mother, so in some ways, it was like Marcie was my mother’s grandchild, but not. I just know that my parents always felt like parents to Marcie’s parents if that makes any sense, but they befriended them as neighbors -- talking over the fence, feeding their dog while they were on vacation, and borrowing that famous “cup of sugar” that made neighbors care about one another.

Marcie and I were thick as thieves -- and every morning as soon as Marcie could, or her mother would let her, she headed over, knocked on our front door, and came in to hang out with “Harriett Sue,” the childhood name I went by to distinguish me from my aunt who had the same first name.

Marcie and I walked to school together, played together, put our hair up in ponytails on the same day, and shared toys and a love of Elvis, introduced to Marcie by her young mother and then to me. My own mother thought Elvis was a “ne'er-do-well." {must have been his performance on Ed Sullivan, which by the way, I didn't see}. LOL

If Marcie stayed over too long, my mother used to send Marcie home, or if I were at Marcie’s, she would call over there and tell Pat, Marcie’s’ mother, that it was time for me to come home. We were inseparable. We were happy. We were best friends. I truly loved Marcie.

When one of Marcie’s younger brothers was struck and killed by a car in our neighborhood, Marcie’s grieving family and extended family gathered at her grandmother’s house. In her tears, Marcie asked for me, and her grief stricken father called my father, who rushed me over, and I was brought into that sad house. Never before have I or again have I felt such sadness, such loss -- it was incomprehensible.

I was in the eighth grade, and even though I had been to and attended both my grandparents’ funerals, I had no idea of how to deal with the pain that I saw the night of Marcie‘s brother‘s death. Stony faced, I sat with Marcie and watched her mom and dad cry as they irrationally blamed themselves and each other somehow for the death of their son.

I stood rigid at the visitation at the funeral home, too afraid to look at the small coffin and his waxy figure, but somehow did it to be by Marcie’s side. At the equally traumatic, yet moving funeral, I sat with the family and held Marcie’s hand, too shocked myself to shed a tear. My own parents hovered near by concerned about the reciprocal effects of my sharing vicariously in such a tragedy. Later, my mother would tell me how proud she and Daddy were of me “during that” that I was able to be so “strong “ and to “be Marcie’s friend.” I confessed to her that I felt like I was in some kind of movie, none of it real to me, and that she was wrong -- "I wasn’t “strong at all.” That was when I cried for Marcie and for Marcie’s brother.

Unable to live so close to the accident scene, Marcie and her family moved -- just far enough away for us to go in different high schools --- but not far enough for her not to ask me to be a bridesmaid ten years later in her wedding. Then we drifted apart as I finished college and took up a career as a teacher.

I still think about Marcie and her family --- our childhood friendship -- and wonder if tragedy had not shaken that young family to its core to send them fleeing away from its reminders -- if we would still be friends. I think we would. There was something in that friendship with Marcie. Are the firsts always the best? Maybe. Maybe not.

In high school, I luckily accrued many friends --- I had Linda, a girl from my church, whose father and I shared a passion for books, and Gloria, whose family lived close to the high school. Each morning, my brother and I rode the city bus to school and passed Gloria’s house. My brother walked the two blocks to the school by himself, but I crossed the street to Gloria‘s. There I hung out with Gloria as she got ready so that we could walk together to school. A bonus for me was that her mother always fed me a second breakfast, usually bacon and eggs, which tasted divine after my breakfast of cereal or lumpy oatmeal, and she talked to me about her favorite soap opera, Days of Our Lives. Her mother also had a dog named Bitzy who ate small bites of bacon from her hand. I loved that they had an inside dog, a thing that my parents would never have allowed since they were children of farmers and to them .... animals belonged in the barn. LOL

There was also Jonathan, a gifted and creative artist, who lived with his aunt and uncle around the corner from me. His parents were missionaries and wished for him to finish his last two years of high school in the states. He and I took many evening walks, no matter the weather, and sat n the swings at the elementary school and talked about everything from my huge crush on Pete Maravich to his growing up as the son of missionaries.

These three friendships have been life long. What makes them so? How is it that I have been blessed to have people in my life that remember me that young, or even more special to me, knew my parents? I was always saddened that my husband only shared seven years of a relationship with my parents before they passed away. …. Seven years is just not enough. *le sigh*

Then, there is my college friend Catherine, a girl with whom I set up a household after college as we moved to Atlanta to be “city girls” and “trawl for a husband.” She and I were roommates for eight years, and when she married, I felt like I had gone through a divorce.

As our lives have been on different paths, she the mother of three who moved to Florida, and me childless and a career teacher in Atlanta, we still manage to make those weekly, then monthly, and now quarterly phone calls and the occasional visit to see each other. No matter where we are in our lives, we just pick up our friendship where it left off.

That is a blessed friendship, isn’t it?

Then there is Laura, a friend I met while working part-time to supplement my lowly teacher‘s salary, whose life has been a part of mine off and on for almost thirty years. Since she moved away, we are closer than we were when we lived in the same city. She too lives in Florida, but our two or three times a year visits and our daily phone calls or emails have kept us loving and caring about each others’ lives. I know that I can call her anytime and say, “This right now in my life really Hoovers,” and she’ll say, “Tell me about it.”

Then there is Edie, my colleague and fellow field tripper. Margaret, my team teacher. Marilyn, the car pooler and resident comedian. Nan, the librarian.

To that list I can add -- my virtual friends -- the like-minded people I have met online through a former, passion for a soap couple on General Hospital. In fact, I could write all day about all of these “friends” that have been in and are still in my life.

Of course, I can write all day about birds too.


Last, there is the most unexpected friendships of all -- those of former students. How can that be? To move from teacher and student to friend to friend? In those, I have been so blessed as well. Out of the blue, a student will email me and say, “do you have time for coffee or lunch? and I will go and revel in their grown upness like a big sister who just wants to hear about how awesome their life is as they have become lawyers, grant writers, thespians, nutritionists, engineers, doctors, writers, fireman, members of the military, or even, my goodness, parents.

Relationships are Biblical, created by God for us. He doesn’t wish for us to go through life lonely, isolated, burrowed into our caves in the dark like troglobites.

Live in the light -- celebrate friendships and relationships. :)


  1. I love you. I hate to share you with your other friends but after reading about them, I want them to be my friends too.

  2. What a wonderful testament to the relationships that God wants and means for us to have to bless our lives but, also, to your gift for nurturing, tending, and cherishing the relationships that you've had bestowed upon you through your richly woven life. Love ya!

  3. Hmmm... I don't remember my first friend. Maybe it was my sister. :)

    Came over through Glynn. Speaking of friends, I'm one of his poetry friends.

  4. Awww -- What a treasure and a blessing your friendship is to me! I miss seeing you, but I am glad we are still connected through cyberspace.

  5. I raise my cup (coffee!) to our friendship, one made through my child...thank you for your wonderful insight and your humor.