“You and I shared a secret that moved our relationship from being classmates to co-conspirators…” 

It’s odd how friendships start and I cannot recall anything about how it was begun; I do know that you became a trusted one, treasured, dear.  Funny how certain people pass through our lives, each one adding a piece to our puzzle, helping us shape who we are, how we see ourselves, building on where we are at that time in our lives.  Even if the relationship wanes, the substance that it created remains – sometimes as photographs and memorabilia that marks what was, sometimes as a base for our future relationships, perhaps it impacts our character, gives us a skill, hobby, interest, habit, or just a warm and fuzzy feeling that we revisit now and then.  

When I reflect on the gifts that have come from certain friendships, I see their impact on who I am today.

One of my earliest friendships was with girl I met in school and because we were the smartest girls in the class because we tied in the Spelling Bee, we became the best of friends.  I went to her house and she went to mine.  We did everything together and our parents said we were two peas in a pod.  We loved paper dolls and spent hours cutting out the clothes for them and using shoe boxes to make rooms and houses for them.  We’d use construction paper and fabric and trims, cut and glue them to create beautiful places for our paper dolls to live and play.  At some point she went with us someplace and as soon as we got out of the car I sensed trouble, and so did she.  People stared and frowned and the whispered started.  I saw my father arguing with someone and they kept looking at my friend and I.  My friend seemed sad and quiet, even somewhat fearful.  I had no idea why but suddenly my parents came over and got us and my sister, bundled us in the car and we left.  Until we moved away, my friend and I remained the best of friends. Years later I realized the issue – my friend was African-American but that was the 1960’s in the South.  Back then, African-American was not the term used.  My gift from this friendship, and truly it was also a gift from my parents, was that we care about the person, not the color, not the race.   When we see only one thing about someone and choose to let that be a wall, we may miss the best part of them, and ourselves.

One of my dearest friends became pregnant in the eighth grade.  She was thirteen.  It was the 1970’s but at that time teen pregnancy was not as prevalent as it is now.  And at that time many families were still held together by secrets.  And this beautiful, smart, funny, gentle girl who tried to dress and act tough and pretend nothing bothered her did so even when everyone whispered, and everyone talked, and everyone walked in giant arcs to avoid her as if her pregnancy was in some way contagious.  She even avoided me.  Her sad eyes would sometimes flick a challenge as she passed groups of girls giggling too loudly and making derogatory remarks about her.  She came to my window one night when she was about six months pregnant and on the floor of my bedroom she told me her story.  And broke my heart.  We cried together often after that and I’ll never forget when her little girl was born, and she placed her for adoption, and then ran away from home, and then later committed suicide.  My gift from this friendship was learning to listen, because listening brought revelation and revelation brought understanding and understanding brought compassion.  My D-Girl, I am so sorry and I wish I had known at that age what I know now.

Another friend I can’t recall exactly how we met has given me the gift of consistency; every Friday night for years we watched Love Boat while sitting on the floor of my parent’s home.  If I went for a date, he still came and watched Love Boat with my folks.  We ditched our high school graduation together.  Through the years as we’ve lost touch, found each other, lost touch, found each other but one thing has remained – we are friends.  He and his wife are dear to me because they are consistent.  I am confident that any time I can call and they are there, to listen, to care, to help.   They are the beautiful people of this world because they have hearts that are open and there’s always room for someone else.

Years ago a lovely lady took me under her wing at work and introduced me to a world I didn’t know existed and that was the world created by Georgette Heyer, author of Victorian and Regency era humorous, G-rated romance novels.  This world of the haute ton predictably but wittily written were the first non-steamy yet oh-so-much better romances because they were smart and funny yet blended beautifully with historical events and facts.  I was enthralled by the Duke of Wellington, the 56th Foot,  and the Seventh Hussars.  I could have picked Prinny out of a crowd so well did I know his description.  When, years later, she passed away I was privileged to be at the memorial and her sister gave a me several books by Georgette Heyer that had been in my friend’s collection.  My gift from this friendship was not only the pleasure of reading but discovering my love for English history.  I’ve reread my Georgette Heyer novels dozens of times through the years and each time I find something funny, something new, and something else that inspires about this author’s gift for writing.  I was thrilled to find that these novels are being reprinted as many of mine are held together by a rubber band around loose pages.

Some people just bubble over with laughter and passion and compassion and faith, and my friend Kim was like that.  I miss her and look forward to seeing her in Heaven.  She gave me the gift of courage to step out of my comfort zone time and time again.  She gave me the gift of confidence in who I am as a woman of God.  She gave…and gave…and gave…and her work at With Child continues because she did so.  And her beautiful children are who they are because of her. 

Several years ago a friend gave me the gift of boldness – not in a brash way, but having the nerve to stand up for what I believe is right.  He would always ask “Is that the right thing to do?” and if it was, he’d tell me to do it.  Such power!  But because of him, I am able to stand up and do the right thing; because of him, I am able to withstand the blows when doing the right thing comes with consequences that hurt.  Because of him, I understand that choices matter, a lot.  And I’d like to think because of him, I make better, more thoughtful and thought out choices.

And I have the sweetest of friends who has given me the gift of her encouragement, even when I’ve fallen, even when I can’t see my way.  She is a dear gift to me – someone God has specifically put into my life to build me up and shore up the leaks. 

 

And my co-conspirator…I, too, have no idea specifically what we talked about but I do know we talked about everything and anything, and I trusted you with my secrets, whatever they were.  I never felt I fit in anyplace but you seemed to accept me anyway.  You were, in my eyes, older and wiser, and as you spouted words of wisdom that in retrospect probably weren’t, I sensed in you something tender and kind despite the snarky words and projection of tough-guy-nothing-bothers-me persona.  You were giving and you were caring and you were loyal to a fault.  You gave me the gift of looking inside, to the heart, of others and myself, to discover the treasure within.  

And that, my friend, is priceless  – both then and now.

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