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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Friendship

"A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words."
I went to dinner last night with an old friend, someone I truly enjoy the company of whenever we get together, no matter how long it has been since we have last seen each other. She is always up on the latest restaurants or hangouts and tidbits of information, she is intelligent and full of interesting thoughts and we are never at a loss for something to chat about. As we have gotten older, I have learned to appreciate who she is and how compassionate and giving, and FORgiving, she really is. There is nothing more precious than a friendship. Nothing. I have a number of very good friends whom I have collected over the years, some who I see often, some not so often, but I consider myself very fortunate to know them all. I can count on my friends to accept me, to understand and consider my feelings, to make me laugh uncontrollably, and to remember me when times are wonderful and happy, as well as at when times are dark and bleak. Let's face it...we all have a lot of both!
"It takes a long time to grow an old friend." - by John Leonard
When I was a kid, a friend was someone I played with and argued or fought with. Most of the time you made friends because of proximity. They were in your neighbourhood, sat beside you in the classroom, or hung around the same places you did in the playground. In high school, there were friends who you identified with because you had the same interests or you were in similar "cliques" according to your status. In my era, there were punks and greasers, there were geeks and jocks. I mostly hung out with the geeks :-). I kept a few friends from that time in my life and still see them from time to time. When you enter the working world, you don't have a sense of where people come from as much as how you relate to them. Work provides the common experience and time away from work is where you develop your friendships and common interests. Most of my friends today evolved from where I worked. I have had many wonderful aquaintances, students I've taught and enjoyed the company of, people I've met through this experience or that. But my core friendships are from a place I started working at 20 years ago whom I've kept in touch with, although most of us have moved on since then. I have, in the last couple of years, really come to understand the significance and the importance of my good friends. There is a group of us who get together once a year and go to a spa for the weekend. We have done this now for several years in a row, and each year it has become more and more significant for me, something to really look forward to. I don't need to "escape" so much as I need to be with my friends for that one weekend where we can all laugh our heads off and be as silly or stupid as we want, as well as talking through our personal struggles, support each other and have some quiet time in a place far away from our everyday lives. I hope that I can return to my friends what they have given to me: love, compassion, humour, acceptance, and above all, the feeling that we are in it together. When I was a young mother and my first daughter began to go to school, I would drop her off, and on some occasions I'd take my younger daughter to McDonald's for a treat...she would have pancakes and play on the indoor rides they had, and I would sit with my Egg McMuffin and a cup of coffee. Almost every time I was there, I'd watch the same group of ladies, all in their 70's and 80's sitting together and enjoying themselves and each other. At the time I remember thinking that it was a pretty boring thing to do...join each other at McDonald's every morning. What kind of life is that? They had a good time, but I could not, for the life of me, relate. Fifteen or twenty years later, I get it. I can now visualize my friends and I many years from now still trying to keep in touch, getting together for a coffee or visiting each other wherever we may be...making each other laugh, and truly valuing what we have. It isn't about McDonald's. It's about making time to be together. May you always have a friend, and more importantly, may you always BE a friend.
The only way to have a friend is to be one. Ralph Waldo Emerson
IJ