The Anatomy of Friendship

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About a year ago I felt compelled to call a friend whom I have known since the summer before I began second grade. We met on the day my family moved across the street from her family. We both hid shyly behind our mothers while they introduced themselves. Our friendship officially began when our moms pushed us toward each other and commanded us to go play. I followed Linda as she gave me a tour of the neighborhood and provided me with a brief biography of the people in each house. With each step that we took we became more comfortable with one another and by the time we had completed the circle we were chattering away. I suppose that Linda is officially the person who has been my friend for the longest time.

Our paths went in different directions over the years but somehow over the course of almost seven decades we always found our way back to each other and to the same easy conversations that started our journey together so long ago. We have laughed and cried through happy and sorrowful times but at the center of our relationship is a sense of trust, a kind of loyalty that overcomes distance and differences of opinion. At heart we are still the two little girls who love one another no matter what. 

I have had many good friends and a number of acquaintances in my lifetime. Fun and laughter have certainly been important components of these relationships but in the final analysis the glue that holds us together is our commitment to one another. The good times are the beginning of a great friendship but when we are able to weather the difficult moments the ties that bind us become ever stronger. The difference between an acquaintance and a friend lies in our ability to depend on someone in all times. That person who is willing to accept us and love us at our very worst is the truest of friends and in many ways transcends the gap of DNA and becomes family in our minds. 

I suppose that one of the truest tests of friendship lies in its endurance over time. We often become busy with the demands of life and seemingly drift apart. How we react when we do manage to come back together defines the level and strength of our relationship. There are some people with whom we feel free to bare our souls without fear. Such is the trust that we have in them. We know that even when our beliefs do not overlap we agree to disagree because nothing is more important than the love we have for each other. 

My friend Nancy is like that for me. Like Linda we often have long times during which we lose communication but when we do find our way back it is as though only five minutes have passed since our last reunion. We have an almost spiritual understanding and closeness that knows no limits. We can open our hearts confident that our honesty will be treasured and never abused. Being together even just by phone is as comfortable as it was when we were giddy high school girls and hopeful college students looking into a future which often turned out differently than what we had imagined.

There are also those ever faithful friends who are at our sides from decade to decade over the course of time. There is Monica whom I met on the school playground when we were six years old and declared that we were sisters when we were grown and raising our families. There is another Linda who is the definition of faithfulness and goodness. I had once admired her from afar and when she and I began to really get to know each other in college I learned that her beauty was far more than physical. Year after year our love only deepens as we share the milestones of being human. There is Cappy who married into my world and stayed even as the situation changed. Wherever she is and whatever her circumstances she is ever faithful.

There are people that we meet at work with whom we first share a common purpose but who we learn are much more than just colleagues. Even after we part ways in our careers we stay in touch, do things together and care deeply. Some of them are part of a kind of unofficial sorority like Chrystal, Aimee, Sharon, Trica, Mili, Jenny, Adriana, Maggie. We find joy in being together and solace in sharing our woes. We hold hands and call and text and support. We are an army of compassionate and caring women. 

Sometimes we are lucky to number the children of other women as friends who become like our own offspring as well. My door is always open to Lisa and Traci no matter the hour of the day or night and I know in my heart that they will reciprocate if ever I need a safe place to be. They are as much members of my family as those with blood ties.

Perhaps the loveliest of friendships are those that evolve in our twilight years. Finding someone who just gets us is so wonderful and Carol is my person for that. We lived entire lifetimes before we really discovered one another even though we knew of each other from our childhoods but now our togetherness feels perfectly matched as though we were meant for all time to be friends. The same kind of evolution has occurred with Dee and Stephanie and Kathy and Bree people from my past whom it did not know well enough to realize that we are indeed kindred spirits.

There are angels that enter our lives as well, very special people who seem to sense our very needs and moods from afar. They almost always appear just when we need them most. Zerin Sahai is my spiritual sister, a women who lives in faraway India but always hears my cries for help even when I do not realize I have been uttering them. She seems to know exactly when I need to laugh or complain or just hear a loving voice. Our relationship is magical.

I think we all know that deep friendships are treasures and never defined only by laughter, fun, good times. The test for our relationships lies in walking through fire together, being a shoulder to cry on or an ear just to listen. I am blessed to know all of these lovely women who have strolled with me in the most important moments of my life and continue to support me even when I am not so easy to be around. As my mother often mused friends accept each other warts and all. Friends are honestly our anchors during a storm.

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