Salem author of “Stranger Friends” & “The Autograph Book”
Bronze Prize Winner ($25) of Oregon Women’s Report “Thanks, Girlfriend” writing contest. Check in all this week for the other great finalists.
When I look at the pictures in my albums, I see the smiling faces of my four long term friends. There are photographs of all of us together or me and one of them, arms entwined at milestone events, or just hanging out, gabbing, shopping, cooking, and traveling together. However, the missing pictures of our relationships will be never pasted into my albums. Sometimes, we did not agree and quarreled. The times when we comforted each other, when our eyes were red and swollen, smeared below with mascara. I do not forget those days; they are what bind us more strongly than the happy occasions.
In my mind, I carry a terrifying snapshot. Alice, my friend, lies on the cold, linoleum floor sobbing. She cannot get up. I kneel next to her, patting her and stroking her hair. I feel so helpless. What if she carries out her threat to commit suicide? The man she loves has backed out two weeks before their wedding. The invitations have been sent. He has taken up with another woman. In the years afterwards, I understand her reluctance to trust men.
My longest enduring friendship is with Anna. I have witnessed her struggles with Bi-Polar Disorder. For years, I have shared her emotional roller coaster rides but admire how she runs a successful real estate business and cares for husband and four children nonetheless.
Kristi, a single friend, went out on a limb, starting her own business consulting company. She would call me, panicked. “No work is coming in, how will I pay my mortgage?” I couldn’t help financially, but I could listen and sympathize. I rejoiced with her when a big contract rolled in two weeks later.
Laura, resentful and angry at having to transfer from a prestigious art school, began making friends with scary looking people, dinosaur guys with purple Mohawks, girls with piggy rings in their noses. I tried to hide my feelings unsuccessfully. At age 31, she still invites “characters” to her home. I have widened my prospective by meeting and liking some of these people.
When I divorced after 33 years of marriage, I was on the receiving end of our friendship “support network.” Kristi and Laura made me my favorite breakfast, eggs benedict. The smell of freshly brewed coffee urged me out of my “burrowed in” bed. They cleaned my apartment. Alice called often and had me edit her college essays which made me feel needed. Anna sent me “a dress to go out in.” I didn’t right away but eventually it became an incentive to do just that.
These four friends are precious to me for another reason. They happen to be my daughters.
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