Thursday, August 31, 2006

A circle is round....(some thoughts on friendship)

Make new friends, but keep the old,
one is silver but the other's gold.

A circle is round, it has no end,
that's how long I want to be your friend.
(Traditional song)

It's almost September, and in Pittsburgh as in most of the lower 48 and I imagine Canada as well, it is time for school to start. I'm not in school right now, but the industry in which I work (librarianship) is pretty hard-wired to the scholastic schedule.

I've been thinking about friendship a lot lately, and how one's life is cyclic in this manner--you make new friends, keep the old, or not...I enjoy meeting new people, and I always attempt to make room in my life for them. I imagine, now, as I contemplate on it, that a lot of it has to do with my dad, in two arenas: one, his job meant that we moved every three years or so when I was a child, and two, for my dad, a stranger is just a friend he hasn't met yet.

For instance, Sunday, we went to Bellefield for morning church, as my dad would be driving down to Virginia after lunch. While my dad was using the loo, I chatted with Than, who works at Bellefield but attends the Open Door. My dad came 'round the corner, and I introduced the two men, saying, "Than is from Kansas." My father was in grad school for two years there. Well, wouldn't you know (I didn't!) that they both had lived in Manhattan (though at least 35 years apart in time.) They exchanged stories and Than looked a lot perkier after talking to my dad than he had while talking to me.

These two men may never meet again, but they might, and that is the magic my father has about building bridges.

Last night I had dinner with Lilly. We hadn't done that for a while, and about midday, frustrated with the state of things (working on CD-ROMs this week) I emailed her, saying, short notice, but wanna meet for dinner? She did!! AND, she was staying in Carrick at her brother's, watching the dawgs (greyhounds) so I had ample excuse to suggest my favorite Homestead gasthaus, Pizzeria Uno.

It never ceases to amaze me how wonderful it is to have dinner with an old friend. Lilly is about, mmm, maybe ten years older, and she's divorced, three grown kids, she's been through the bipolar bit (though she miraculously now gets by without meds!)--she is the friend equivalent to a comfortable old shoe that keeps getting more beautiful (and newer?) each time you wear it (I'm clearly not sure where I'm going with that metaphor...) Anyways, she's pretty much been through everything I've been through and more. So she understands the process of my life more than any other one of my friends. We've had our spats and cold wars but we've made it through. I will be eternally grateful, and I don't say that lightly--her relationship with Christ is one to emulate.

I often read books on the recommendation of a friend, and so I'm almost half-way through East of Eden. The first 30 pages had me mad, as there were only caricature female characters, but then I met Olive, if only for a few more pages, so all was right. But man, this is Steinbeck at dark. Cold-blooded? You ain't met them until you met...well, I won't give it away. Pat is also reading it, and Carlos is waiting patiently (actually not) while we finish, as it is his favorite book and he wants to talk with us about it. So I may get to have a book club meeting of sorts--GLEE! Carlos is living my dream--he's already doing the MFA (Master in Fine Arts) in Writing at Pitt. Meeting him at the OD whilst prepping for the Saturday Farmer's Market nudged me forward in thinking about the Carlow program. More on that later.

Today or tomorrow or yesterday (pick the second day of school) marks the 17th anniversary of a friendship that right now is in an extended cold war. I met Sara at a friend's birthday party in late August but we didn't click until we were in the same Chemistry class my junior year of high school and she came in with glee, "My sister just had a baby!" Our friendship grew over the first semester and soon we were inseperable. We had a list of things that we had in common, not the least being our names--she was Susan and I was Susie. (Yes, that was a slip of my "real" name--it would work with Sarah and Sara, but I wanted to slip for a minute.) (Child's adamant voice: I meant to do it that way!) Besides, I've found that now at least three folks have me linked using my real first name to this blog and that's okay... it would be too fussy to complain to those folks that my blog is being written by Sarah Louise.

Over the years, Sara and I stayed in touch long distance, over the phone, and through ShoeBox cards. We'd see each other every three years or so once I finished college. I moved to Pittsburgh, she moved to Front Royal, and then Rhode Island, and finally where she is now, near Boston. She got married, had two gorgeous kids, ovarian cancer, and went back to school. I stayed single, had a suicidal boyfriend and a trail of bad news boys after that, bipolar disorder, and the same apartment for eleven years. I'd call her and be able to tell her things I couldn't say to any other friend because we knew each other so well and for so long. More often than not, it was my nickle, but she didn't really have the nickles to be calling long distance, so I didn't mind, because it was joy to talk to her.

Then I went to visit her this past March. We were both excited, our first face to face in six years. I hadn't met her daughter, and well, it was just going to be fun. Then I had an exhausting time at the conference in Boston, was the most homesick I'd been in ages, and basically mental health-wise had the whiniest most unstable week in years the following week, whilst visiting my best friend from high school. Um, not a real good situation. I won't go into all the details, as it's water under the bridge and unfair to both of us to regurgitate and review those angsty days. A few good things: We went to see Failure to Launch, I decorated the cutest little purse with buttons and I got to see another friend from high school, actually the one at whose birthday I first met Sara. I should send her a birthday card...

Anyways, to make a long story short, when I was prepping for the stuffed animal sleepover, I wanted to try out Walgreen's online photo operation--you email them your digi pix and it's some cheap price like 19 cents a print in one hour. I wanted to have a dry run so that I knew the process worked. So, which digi pix did I want to print? Well, I did have the pix that Sara took when I gave her daughter the EasyBake Oven. So I sent those in. Well, I had to have them done at the Penn Hills Walgreen's, as the East Lib Walgreen's photo operation was down for the moment when I was doing my dry run. PH is about 13 minutes away, but I didn't know where it was, and I wasn't exactly thrilled to send the pix to Sara, not knowing if she'd respond, if I wanted her to. But I knew it was the right thing to do. So Tuesday, I had the morning to myself before doc visits and then my first day back at work, so I Yahoo! mapped the trek to the PH Walgreen's. I picked up the pix and went to the card dept to find a card. I found a nice Maya Angelou card that I liked the front of. (The inside was only for friends with valid passports.) So I figured, I'd cut the front off and mail it with the pix. But I couldn't resist looking at the ShoeBox display. Sara would always send me the Maxine cards. I probably have most of them, tucked in a drawer in my closet.

I bought two ShoeBox cards: (front) "I'm lucky to have a friend like you." (inside) "All my other friends are normal." and (front) A good friend will know how you take your coffee. (inside) A great friend will add booze.

I don't know why I bought them.

I drove to the Edgewood library, borrowed a pair of scissors, cut the front off the Maya Angelou card, wrote a quick note, padded the pictures with an insert from the copy of People I couldn't resist (Exclusive interview with Jennifer Anniston: I'm not engaged!) and addressed the envelope. I mailed it at the post office on the way home.

I'm still grieving. Right now I'm very possessive of my other friends, worrying if I haven't heard from them in the past day or so, and checking my email obsessively. Part of it is returning to work, but a lot of it is because I'm still grieving this not quite a death. Part of it is letting go of a crush I had for over a year and having to see that person occasionally at church and actually have conversation (agony!). Part of it is letting go of other friendships--and realizing "let's do lunch" doesn't always mean the words, it's just something to say to fill the air. Part of it is the reality of turning 35 in November.

She was my gold. So it's time to take a look at some of the silver's and promote them to gold. After all, isn't that what happens in September? The green leaves turn gold as the autumn air moves through.

I wrote this in college about a guy who was a friend for a semester my freshman year:

Your Friendship Hand

We walked through the fallen falling leaves, brown and wet,
decaying, smelling up our noses
with that autumnal perfume
that is uncommon in the city.
And we stumbled down a hill
You offered your friendship hand
So I would not fall.


MsCellania said...

Aw, SL; this was a tender post.
This is what I have learned about friends so far; we expect too much of our friends. They can never be as perfect as our image of them. And we cannot be as good a friend as we would like to be, either.
Sometimes stuff that is going on in our lives prevents us from being very good friends. Mostly? I forgive my friends and myself.

ilovepgh said...

This is a truly great post! Thank you! It was really good. I often feel as though my gold friends are far away (either in time/space/emotions) and yes, sometimes it is time to promote the silver to gold. I really liked how you talked about that. Your blog is actually quite inspirational to me! Thanks for the blogthings links and the note about libraries...I'll have more time soon to go! yay!


Amy said...

Friendships are so very difficult, SL, and your angst on the topic was tangible. I think sometimes we have to set our pride aside and do the right thing in order to restore a valuable friendship while other times we have to see how a relationship is negatively affecting our lives and learn to let go. What a great idea, though, to promote 'silver' friendships this fall! A wonderful idea to invest our time and energy into making a good relationship a great one! Thanks for this!

wilsonian said...

"You offered your friendship hand
So I would not fall."

I really love these lines...

You wanna hear a weird coincidence?? I have a friend currently living in Manhattan, Kansas, who is moving to Pittsburg in January. Until he moved there, I'd never even heard of Manhattan, Kansas!

Carolyn said...

What an insightful post. It always hurts to lose a friend.

Promoting silver to gold is a great idea.

Sarah Louise said...

I just found this quote on a 9-11 related cartoon:

"In the end we will not remember the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends" --MLK Jr.