Dancing and Walking With Friends

sunset_0“ A friend is someone who dances with you in the sunshine and walks with you in the shadows”

We have many acquaintances over a lifetime but those who are true friends are often quite rare. I remember sitting with my mother-in-law many many years ago in one of our after dinner tea times. We always delved into deeply philosophical topics during those moments, and I reveled in the wisdom that she provided. On one occasion she spoke of the nature of friendships using the life of Jesus as an example. She noted that Christ had twelve disciples and many fans during the three years of His ministry, but when push came to shove as he was dying on the cross only his mother, a cousin and a woman of questionable repute stood grieving for his pain and suffering. She then went on to note that we should count ourselves as fortunate if we have one or two or three special people who faithfully support us in our hours of greatest need.

I suppose that most of us would indeed view our mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses and children as our most loyal supporters. I know that I have been fortunate in that regard, but along the way I seem to have found just the right friends for just the right moments. These are the people who gave of themselves when I most needed them. We shared good times and bad. They were there for me even when I wasn’t much fun to be around.

I had a very difficult transition into first grade. My favorite uncle was dying. My mother had just brought a new brother to our house. I was only five years old and nobody had warned me that I would be going to school. It all happened so fast that I was terrified. A sweet girl named Virginia somehow noticed how afraid I was and befriended me. I adored her and never forgot her kindness even after my family moved. I thought that I would never see her again, but unbeknownst to either of us we went to the same high school. At our fiftieth reunion I connected the dots and realized that she was the same Virginia who had meant so much to me. I have since learned what a remarkably loving person she has always been, and that she has given generously of herself to many many people. She understands implicitly how to be a friend.

After the first grade my family moved to a new neighborhood. A girl named Lynda lived across the street from our home and we became inseparable. We shared our deepest thoughts and dreams. At the time I believed that she and I would never part, but fate intervened and I was moving once again. Somehow we kept up with one another in spite of the growing distance between us. More than sixty years later we can pick up the phone and hold never ending conversations as though it had only been yesterday since we last spoke. There is something magical about our friendship that belies time and space.

My confidante in high school was Claudia. She was my soulmate at the time. Somehow our minds seemed to be as one. There was nothing that we dared not discuss or reveal about ourselves. She introduced me to books and music that I might otherwise have never found. We were debate partners and planned to go to college together. I thought that she might be by my side until I drew my last breath, but things changed and we somehow became very different. I recall our very last phone conversation which was stilted and uncomfortable. I knew then that our days of easy companionship were at an end, but I would always cherish them because they were perfect at the time in which they occurred.

In college I accidentally happened upon another Linda. She and I arrived very early for our English classes one morning. We had attended the same schools in elementary, junior high, and senior high school. I had idolized her from afar because she was beautiful, bright and always incredibly sweet. I often found myself feeling as though I was the luckiest person on earth just to be talking with her, but I soon realized that ours was the real deal. Our friendship has endured over five decades and she has always been one of the first to come to my aid in times of distress. She is an angel in every sense of the word and someone whom I love beyond words.

As a young bride I had little money for entertainment. I met each Friday with two other friends from school, Nancy and Susan. We played a card game called Bridge, but it was more like a close approximation and would have driven serious players to the brink of insanity. Mostly we chatted and laughed and enjoyed cheesecake and lemonade, our favorite snacks at the time. I lost track of the two women for many years but thanks to Facebook we have been reunited and lucky enough to rekindle friendships that probably never should have lapsed. It’s amazing how easily we picked up where we had left off and how much we are alike.

During my middle years I connected with Pat. She opened up so many vistas for me, showing me worlds that I had never known. We were as close as sisters, so much so that we didn’t even have to call ahead to go to each other’s homes. I spent so many years with her that I felt that her children were mine and my children belonged to her. Pat, like Linda, possessed a generous spirit that was boundless and just being with her was a joyful experience. She liked to create “rainbow days” for us the memory of which still make me smile. I had truly thought that she and I would grow old together but she died far too soon. Since that time her daughter Lisa has become a loyal and loving friend to me and my daughters. Like her mother she literally defines what it means to be a friend. I know that I can count on her no matter what is happening in either of our lives. It is so reassuring to know that Lisa will come to comfort me at a moment’s notice. I do my best to reciprocate. Then there is Zerin, a woman with the mystical power to read my very soul even from thousands of miles away. No matter where we are she somehow knows when I am happy and when I am in need of a shoulder to lean on. She is my guru, my angel. my muse. Just the sound of her voice comforts me and beings a smile to my face. She possesses a rare gift of empathy that she shares unconditionally.

I cannot forget Monica who goes all the way back to second grade. She is the strong and wise person in my world and always has been. She patiently puts up with my silliness even thought it must be irritating to her. She’s been one of the first to show up through thick and thin. She is the sister that I never had along with my cousin Ingrid, a rare beauty who knows how to read my very soul.

I have been blessed with special women who have danced with me in the sunshine and walked with me in the shadows. Cappy, Adriana, Jenny, Betty, Lisa, Carol, Marita, Bree, Guadalupe, Keiry, Militza, Maria, Joana, and Jennifer are women who have all touched my heart. Each of these women have been true friends, not just interlopers. They have taken the time to allow me to be me and to build my confidence. They have been kind and patient and loyal. Their love never failed. They have been friends.

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