The support and care and encouragement that friends often give to – and receive from – each other cannot be measured. It can, however, be acknowledged and appreciated. So, in the spirit of “do not put off until November what you can do today, ”I’d like to pause on this fourth Tuesday in May, to express my gratitude to my friends, without whom I’d be lost.
What is it that friends provide? It is friends who offer more therapy than therapists. It’s friends who nourish the soul when it needs nourishing and clean the tub when it needs cleaning. My friends and I have watched each other’s children, dropped off meals, washed dishes, weeded each other’s gardens and when necessary, weeded the demons out of each other’s vulnerable psyches. We’ve tried to make sure that most birthdays are acknowledged – with cake. And on summer nights, we build fires together. We laugh a lot.
Simply put: we show up.
It probably boils down to something that my husband and I promised in the wedding vows we created together: to tenderly care for each other. And while he exceeds at caring for me like the best of friends, he publicly pledged to do so and is fulfilling his marital obligation. My friends and I care for each other just because.
An example. When I graduated from college in the late 1980s, our country was experiencing a mini recession. I spent that year waitressing in Providence by night and interviewing in Providence by day. I witnessed my peers eventually securing professional positions and I wondered what was wrong with me.
My friend Joanne had moved to Boston six months earlier and suggested I join her there, where I could cast a wider net in a bigger city.
“No,” I protested. “It would be irresponsible to move there without a job in hand.”
She convinced me that this exact scenario would ensure expedient employment. She was right. Because of her encouragement, I landed a great job at a place that even paid for my masters degree.
Throughout my life, at the low ebbs, or when forks presented themselves irritatingly in the road, it’s always been like this with friends: gentle encouragement, subtle support, constant care.
When my mother was gravely ill, it was my friends who dropped off meals, watched my toddlers and offered things like “night or day, I’m here.”
When I found out I was expecting our third child and I panicked that the house was too small, that I was too old, that there weren’t enough resources, it was friends who soothed my soul and whispered: “Yes, you can do this. It’ll be OK. You can do this.”
Over the years, when faced with the harsh judgments society relentlessly throws at women, it is friends who have offered the best antidotes: bemusement and indifference.
The walls of the Belmont Media Center are currently adorned with photographs taken by me over the past two years. It was a friend who provided the encouragement for me to pursue this passion. That same friend invited me to join her art group and in doing so got me writing essays again – which led to writing this weekly column.
Here’s the thing: I really don’t care how long my friends nursed their babies up to age four or not at all. I don’t care if they chose to circumcise their boys or not. And I really don’t care if they fed their kids organic vegetable juice or Hawaiian Punch. Good friends offer support, not judgment. This is how it is with friends, and it’s how we survived those early years.
Is it always fire pits under star filled skies? Of course not. There are disappointments, but what relationships don’t have those? Let’s talk about that another time; today it’s Thanksgiving in May.
I have never been someone who has had lots and lots of friends. Instead, I hold dear a small number of very close friends. In any case, it’s important for me to cherish and acknowledge each and every one of these special soul-mates.
So, to my friends out there – those near and far – thank you for your gift of friendship. Thank you for your constancy. Thank you for your tender care.
When is our next fire pit?