Meditations on Friendship
Well, there it is! Stretching invitingly out before me like a sweet and sinuous pull of taffy, curving around hills and sweeping around vistas. The trees are massed tight and are swaying in the wind like kids at a campfire kumbaya. It’s Woody Guthrie’s true “ribbon of highway” and my car banks the curves of the road with the rhythmic skill of a skier mogaling gracefully downhill.
As we move further west the land flattens. I can’t see the destination ahead or the point of origin far behind. I feel alone. Friendless. But am I? I look out and see that the sky has spread its arms wide to embrace the earth, so close that I feel as though I could climb the clouds into the pockets of quiet, to companionship and solace. So, of course, I do.
The Sweetness of Friendship
“Okay, so what’s the plan, what’s the plan, what’s the plan?”
At my house there is ping-pong, and People Magazine and the pool. Walks to the corner market for peaches and cherries and grapes, to the drug store for Mars Bars and Milky Ways and Twizzlers, We can maybe even walk the dogs. Charlotte the sheepdog on one leash for you, Tina the chihuahua on another for me. Want to splash together Vernors Floats? Mash together chocolate chip cookies? It will be so fun!
We will swing so hard and so high that for sure (well probably) our swings will wrap themselves around the swing set just like in a Tom and Jerry Cartoon. Spread Monopoly or Scrabble or The Game of Life all over the living room floor and play beginning to end, all the way through. We’ll take piles of McDonald’s burgers from your freezer and zap them back to life in that microwave thing. Be very careful. The pickles will be extra hot.
Different interests, different schools, different lives. Winter or summer. Rain or shine. During the week we each walk alone. But every single Saturday, your house or mine?
Someone finally asks us, “How have you two been friends for so many years?” We shrug and grin at each other. It never occurred to us not to be friends.
An Interwoven Friendship
Well frankly the miracle was that I managed to get a top bunk. You, a double session girl, are top bunked too of course and in a choice corner spot to boot, right across from me. You have the coveted Levis to my Danskins, the braces to my buck teeth, the cool, shambling walk of an athlete to my short stepped shuffle. And yet? While playing a desultory game of flashlight tag I spot you! Curled up in your bunk passionately scribbling away in that notebook. No one, but no one, writes a letter home like that. You weren’t writing a letter home.
I am soon to find that you are not what at first you seem. But then, it would appear, neither am I.
Swept Away by the Dream of Friendship
After the play. After the after party. After hours. I am not sure exactly when I am supposed to be home but it certainly is well before this. But it is 3 am and I am perched high on a stool in your kitchen and rooted to the spot. How can this be? My dreams are echoed in your words, my hopes are buoyed by your thoughts, my brain prickles with yearned for connection. Oh! My breathing is ragged and my heart is expanding and expanding and expanding yet again. I will risk all for the sheer pleasure of this conversation, I can’t leave, I just can’t, it will break the spell and that would break my heart utterly.
But I do leave.
In the daylight I spot you. I can feel myself curl inward, like a styrofoam cup melting in the fireplace. I avert my eyes. I don’t stop. Instead, with nary a stutter step, I keep walking by myself.
In the True Spirit of Friendship
The creature of habit, day after day I am sitting in the seat I’ve claimed as mine for the history of music class. And you in yours. Right next to me. Do gregorian chants bring to mind the tight harmonies of the Beach Boys? A sublime Mozart aria, the zing of Django Reinhardt? Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever , the muscular thrum of Buddy Rich?
I gamely toss in For Me and My Gal and you firmly lob Gene Kelly and Judy Garland right back. You serve up On the Waterfront and I complete the volley with Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint. Adam’s Rib with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn is a total slam dunk.
When we graduate, you’ll fly to the left, I’ll fly to the right. Our dreams will take us from one end of the country to the other. But I Know Where I’m Going!, dear friend. As do you.
And here we are on the road once again. The path ahead is not a straight, unblinking journey at all but rather seems to fold back upon itself in the gorgeous, jagged unending pattern of a fractal. Memory does that. On the road for sure, but not alone. Never really alone.
To all of my old friends, even if connections have been gnarled or twisted, the pattern continues, time untangles. Friendship, whether felt in a burst of connection or a lifetime of longing, is a privilege with the possibility of a kaleidoscope of joy. I am still a bit besotted with all of you. As well I should be.
As he neared middle-age, Henry David Thoreau wrote “I sometimes awake in the night and think of friendship and its possibilities.”*
I reach out my hand and my heart in possibility to all those friends I’ve known and loved. And I extend my hand as well to those friends I hope to know and hope to love someday in the future.
*Thank you to the marvelous Brain Pickings (brainpickings.org) website for the reminder of this lovely quote.