My earliest friends, aside from my maternal cousins, were Pam Peluski and Donna Todd in Three Forks, Montana, followed by Susie Haggerty and Johnny Mike Wilcox when we moved to Butte. They were the first friends who have marked my life of 64 years. I am no longer in touch with those early friends, but they comprise my earliest memories of friendships and are forever engraved in my heart.
I have been blessed with a long line of friends-most certainly more than I deserve. Some have come for a season and others for a lifetime. Some have moved far away geographically and others, emotionally, but all of them are together in my collection of treasured memories. Each have blessed me in their own unique way. A few have ended badly- not many, but there is still some regret for less than happy endings along with gratitude for the gifts they brought.
There were many friends in my elementary school years, mostly from our So Cal neighborhood. We spent hours playing Barbies, tether ball on the playground, roller skating, bike riding and going to the beach when our parents gave in to our craving for the sand and surf. Through the blessing of Facebook, many of us have been able to re-connect despite most having left the neighborhood we grew up in. Our childhood was sweet for the most part and we share many fond memories of growing up in a simpler, more carefree time.
In my high school years, I made new friends, some from far away places-Indiana, New Jersey and Tennessee. Billy, Deb, Stephen and Evie all opened up new worlds to me. With Evie I visited New York City for the first time, went to Carnegie Hall and fell in love with the Big Apple. While Billy and Stephen travelled throughout the country, I travelled vicariously with them and engaged in copious letter writing through the years. Because of them, I visited Nashville for the first time and also fell in love with Music City. Although I see them rarely, I still consider both to be dear friends. Stephen and his wife Prilla will visit us next month, some 26 years since I last saw them in Nashville and I am beyond excited to see them. Deb and I have never lived in the same state, but through the years we have managed to meet once or twice a year in places wherever we found a good airfare. We have shared the joys and sorrows of life together for nearly half a century. (We are OLD!) She has been a shelter to me through many storms.
At home, my local bestie was Cindy. Her family lived in another town, a few miles from my home. We were the closest of friends through high school. I spent many a weekend in her home, with the two of us sleeping in her small bedroom at the top of the stairs in a single bed. I travelled with she and her sisters in their own bus, as they travelled from church to church singing their sweet harmonies as The Hammond Sisters. We had the best of times. I remember gathering around their kitchen counter for breakfast and her Dad reading from “Our Daily Bread”. Her mom was an anchor and always welcomed me with open arms. She was strong and unyielding in her faith, but warm and loving at the same time. I felt at home in theirs. Through a long series of life’s challenges, Cindy and I lost touch. She went through some very hard times and ultimately moved away and settled far North of us. Though there were occasional letters and brief visits through the years we have not been in touch in over three decades. Though time and geography have come between us, my affection for her remains strong and I know one day we’ll be reunited, if not on earth, in Heaven. That will be a day of great joy for me.
As an adult, my closest friends have blossomed under the umbrella of my faith. So many women have grown to be so dear to me. Karen and Patricia, my Maryland besties who blessed me extravagantly with their hospitality, like mindedness, listening ears, prayers and humor. Jules, who is a bestie to everyone who knows her and who taught me how to set a beautiful table among other things. Tracey, who has modeled a life of prayer and who makes me laugh hilariously in the dark hours of the night with her texts as we both battle insomnia. Nancy, who has rescued me from my impulsive actions more than once and whose wry humor makes me laugh out loud. Paula, who is an example of self-less service, devotion to knowing the Word of God and a sense of humor that I adore. Cindy, who believes me to be far better than I really am and encourages me to walk in faith believing God CAN. Jean, who has taken on the mantle of great-grandma to my littles in the absence of my own mother, and who has been a constant source of encouragement from the day I met her. My walking group and my Bible study partners who urge me to press on to the good…the list goes on…
They say you can’t choose your family, but you can, your friends. Some of us are blessed with family we also call friends. My husband, who has grown to be the dearest of the dear through many trials and heartaches and who is now my exemplary husband and friend. My closest cousins, Shelly, Linda and Dona, are literally lifelong friends, woven into the fabric of my heart. Not a week goes by that I’m not in contact with one and sometimes all of them. My sisters and sisters-in-love, Debi, Dona, Christine, Nancy and Stacie are not “just” my family, but friends in whose presence I am always at home because of the history we share.
Each friendship is unique. Some are full of laughter and others are full of heartfelt conversation, exhortation and encouragement as we share our lives. I have always struggled with the question, “who is your best friend?” My friend Betsy once asked me that question and I responded, ” I cannot narrow it down.” The truth is, I have been blessed with an abundance of good, good friends. At any given time, they have each been my “best” friend. When I am in their presence, the designation of “best” belongs to them. Each, “for such a time as this.” I marvel at the goodness of our loving God, to gift my life with the right one at the right time. Through joy and suffering, through laughter and tears, through successes and failures, this cadre of friends have walked with me through the sunshine and storms of life. They have inspired me to press on through the heartaches and trials and have rejoiced in the delights of this life.
I cannot choose one.
I choose them all.
If you have one true friend, you are fortunate. If you have a handful, you are blessed. If you have more than a handful, you are rich indeed.