All of my life, I have had friends. All of my life, it has made the difference-never so more, than now.
When we are young, friends are necessary for play. My first friends were my cousins, though I would have never considered them that in my childhood. Lucky for me, the country road that I grew up on was full of them. I had teenage cousins that actually would play with us younger ones. I wanted to be like them when I grew up. The girls were pretty and lady-like. No one had to tell me that they were almost grown! They preferred more civilized ways to play. No one got dirty and your hair never got tangled because ever so often, somebody would brush it. Play was quiet with the older girl cousins. I felt like something important was going on and would take notes about how they acted. At some point, a commotion would come in the back door and break my trance.
The rowdy boy cousins were a force to be reckoned with. They played rough games that were loud and you were liable to get hurt. They did do their best to be tender with their little girl cousins. Their bikes were big so they would push us around on them before it was their turn-and then they’d take off like “the devil was after them” and leave us to our own devices. I got nipped by their boxer once, listened to their scary stories and watched one of them eat poison ivy to prove he wasn’t allergic to it. I was sure he would die and said extra prayers for him.
It was a long time after that I had any friends outside of the family. Parents were not concerned about socialization ethics in that day. None of us were trained to be athletes as children and if you learned how to play music it was from an aunt or uncle-who would just start playing and say “jump in when you can.” The only camps we attended was the “Christian service camp” in the same town we lived in. When one grew up. you were sent for a week. In the early part of the week, the women would pack up food from home and pack us younger cousins all in a car for a visit. I don’t think any of us ever stayed the whole week.
Somehow, we all ended up with the coveted social graces. We grew up and all of us acquired good status and had plenty of friends. I still call some of the friends I made then, friends today. I made some especially dear friends as a young mother that have their own places in my heart now. No matter, the years we were barely in touch-friends do not recognize long absences as any thing other than that. We may only have talked at Christmas, and would always vow to do better in the new year to come, but most often we didn’t. We were raising our children and stretching dollars-and it took everything-but “a friend loves at all times” and that’s the difference.
It is good to write that we are all as close now as we have ever been-maybe more so. Truly, birds of a feather do stick together. We are older now. Our children are mostly grown. We have buried loved ones together-parents, a brother and two husbands. Three of us live alone. It is a grand time to have good friends.
There are all sorts of personalities among us-and we make allowances for that. We are artists, teachers and candlestick makers! We are sometimes practical and sensible-sometimes not. We seem to take turns being hopeful and confident-when we are not, we unite like warriors. One may scatter and one likes order-it is of no consequence in the grand scheme of things. As glad as I am for all of that, I believe what I value most is the authenticity that was born and cultivated over the years. Honesty is only possible when fear is not.
I spend a good deal of time pondering my future these days. It is a serious task and exhausting to consider. I am as unsure as it is humanly possible to be. Plans have never done me much good thus far, but goodness, people my age mostly have them! I will need to consider a smaller rabbit patch and where is it? What am I going to do with this beautiful life in the up-coming seasons? Some people consider it a wonderful art to live each day without considerations to the next-others think it irresponsible. It is an odd predicament altogether-so at such times, friends are most handy. My own, lend me a sweet comfort – a treasure “that rust does not corrupt.” When “birds of a feather flock together”, it is a lovely thing. “Friends do love at all times” and it’s nothing short of a miracle, if you ask me.