Wednesday, January 11, 2006

That's What Friends Are For

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same. – Anonymous

Problem Child is spending the week with a friend who is visiting from out-of-town. Come summer, Angel will celebrate a milestone anniversary of a great friendship. And last Thursday I said auf Wiedersehen to a good friend.

Not long after I turned fifty (I can hear the gasps through cyberspace because I know that you’re stunned that I’ve hit that half-century mark) a woman I used to work with invited me to join a group called The Red Hat Society.

RHS was formed in 1997 and is loosely based around the poem “Warning” by Jenny Joseph. The first two lines of that poem read When I am an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat which doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me. Therefore, the de rigueur dress for Red Hatters is a purple outfit and a red hat. Since I’m not much of a hat person, I tend to wear as simple a hat as possible. However, Suzy, the fearless leader of the local chapter that I joined, doesn’t share the same fear of hats that I do. Her chapeaus rival anything ever seen as Ascot and are often accompanied by a red feather boa and articles of clothing with glitter or sequins.

Suzy welcomed me into the group with open arms. She made sure I knew when we were meeting and where. Since RHS is an un-organization, we don’t have a lot of rules or schedules. Most of us have spent half a century abiding by rules and schedules and darn if we aren’t going to just have a little fun. We have had a few field trips, but generally we are the “ladies who lunch.” And we’ve lunched all over north Alabama.

In November of 2004, Suzy’s husband passed away unexpectedly. We all mourned with her and celebrated his home-going in a lovely service atop Green Mountain. With his passing, Suzy had lost her best friend. But she mustered on, often hiding her pain and sorrow from all of us.

Back in the fall, she decided to make an extended visit to her daughter’s home in Seattle. Once there, she fell in love with the area, re-connected with her small grandchildren and quite by accident stumbled upon a home in a retirement community that was for sale. Next thing we knew, our leader was moving cross-country.

This is the point in time when you regret the time you didn’t spend together, the lunches you missed, the secrets you didn’t share and everything else you could possibly regret about a friendship. But this is also the time when you become excited about a friend’s new adventure in life, especially when you see the spark return to her eyes and hear the lilt in her voice again.

Suzy wrote me a note in her Christmas card and told about meeting Karolyn Grimes. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, she’s the actress who played little ZuZu Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” She’s become the movie’s unofficial ambassador and when she met Suzy, she gave her a small stained-glass angel. In case you don’t remember, ZuZu was the one who said “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

That angel means a lot to Suzy and I know for sure that angels are watching over my friend as she starts a new life across the country. Huntsville wasn’t her home; her husband’s job had brought them here. But now she’s close to family and can enjoy seeing her grandchildren grow up.

Last Thursday I hosted a “Bon Voyage” party for Suzy in my home. I’m sure my neighbors wondered about the procession of purple-and-red-clad women. My husband holed away in his office and allowed us to laugh and joke and tell jokes for several hours while we ate chocolate cake decorated with – yep, purple and red icing.

I have a very special set of footprints on my heart and they're followed by a trail of red feathers and glitter. You’ll notice that I didn’t say “good-bye” to Suzy. I said “auf Wiedersehen,” which is German for “until I see you again.” And when we see each other again, it will be as if we never parted and we’ll start laughing right where we left off.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” Be a good friend and cherish your friendships because they are more valuable than gold.

If you’ve let a friendship slide, call or email or write an old-fashioned letter today. You won’t regret it.

Tell me about your best friend and you might win a prize. I’ll randomly chose from one of the comments posted to all the Playground blog entries this week and send the winner an autographed copy of Getting It! by Rhonda Nelson. This is the debut book in her Chicks in Charge series.

P.S. I’ll hit the "double nickels" in a few months. Go ahead. Gasp again. *g*


Jennifer Y. said...

To be honest with you, I don't really have a lot of close friends. I haven't spoken to anyone from high school since graduation (I hated high school anyway so it is no big deal to me) and I only communicate occasionally with friends from college.

My dad is probably my best friend. We have always spent time together watching our favorite shows and movies. We have always been close (he calls me Buddy). We also have similar interests and the same sense of humor. We may not tell each other everything like most best friends, but we have a special relationship with each other. That relationship has only grown stronger over the years. I can't imagine life without him or my mother.

On this past New Years Eve, my dad's father (my Grandaddy) died in a car accident. This brought us closer together as a family and to each other. I realized then how fragile life is and what I took for granted. I hope I learn from this and that my friendship with my father and other family members continues to strengthen.

Sorry for the long post!
Jennifer Y.

Sabrah said...

My best friend is more than a friend, she's a soul sister. Jan Sisty Caldwell and I have known each other since we were four, went through 1st through 12th grades together in Aliceville, were roomies in college, and married men who grew up in the same neighborhood in Selma. We are almost complete opposites: Jan's a neatnick to the extreme, I'm a slob. Jan's brilliant, she rarely, if ever, made less than an "A" on any subject, while I struggled to keep a "C" average. Jan has dark, coffee-colored hair, I'm a blonde. Jan is in a high-paying, profession, I work for a non-profit -- non-profit being the operative word. However, in spite of our differences, or maybe because of them, in all the years we've been friends -- and we're both quickly approaching the big 6-0, we've never had an argument, not even a little spat. I know that if I need her, all I have to do is pick up the phone and she'll be there. She knows the same about me. She encourages me when I'm down, she celebrates my accomplishments, she can keep a secret, she doesn't judge,and she gives me her shoulder when I need a good cry. I couldn't have chosen a better friend if I had ordered one from the Sears and Roebuck catalogue.

Smarty Pants said...

I met my best friend November playing outside when I was ten. Her mom was dating my neighbor, so they were over now and then and it turned out that we ended up on the same bus to junior high. Like Sabrah, we couldn't have been more different. She was skinny, had a new boyfriend every couple weeks, ran track, and struggled in school. I was - let's be kind - chubby with bad skin, never had a boyfriend, wouldn't run if my butt was on fire, but slept through most my classes and got A's. I guess we just complimented each other. She'd drag me in places I wouldn't want to go, I'd force her to fill out college applications. We ended up at different high schools, then I went to Arizona and she went to Oregon for college. We can go 9 months without talking and it doesn't matter. When we pick up the phone, its just like we spoke yesterday. I haven't seen her since I moved to Huntsville - 5 years - and I'm the maid of honor in her wedding this summer.

Problem Child said...

I let Shelley cut and color my hair...

'Nuff said.

She also has no problem telling me when the pants really do make my ass look fat.


Playground Monitor said...

Did she color it with Crayolas or paint-by-number? *g*

Guess we'll get to see on Saturday, huh?

Jennifer Y. said...

You guys make me laugh!!! Crayolas indeed?!?! LOL!

MissChievous Me said...

This may be lame.
This may be boring.
This may make your eyes roll to the back of your head.

My best friend is my husband.

We're not joined at the hips (well, sometimes we are, LOL!).

We each have our own things to do. But, dang! After all these years (23 since we started going out, 16 since we've been married) we still like hanging out with each other and (gasp!) talk. We don't always agree, but we can see each other's point of view. Best of all, he let's me be me.

Okay, let the rotten tomatoes fly!