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The Collector

Old Friends. They really can be the very best, can’t they? Friendship is something that really morphs and flexes over time, and I am a firm believer that the most cherished of friends should often be the ones that stayed in it to win it for the long haul.

As a kid, we focus on how many friends we have. We collect them like pebbles at the beach or pennies, and it often feels like the more we have, the better. As we aged through to high school, some friends faded away, and a few stuck around. College brings new friends to add to the mix, and new experiences to share with those friends. Post college life, when marriage and kids often happen, is when we see who remains when life gets so darned BUSY. After a while, we look around and see a hodgepodge of friends from various times in our lives, and then we start to pay even closer attention. Slowly we start to weed through those friends, seeing who is a true friend, and who is there to witness our failures without lifting us back up.

When I look at my friends now, I have folks who are somewhat newer friends, but most are those I have known for very large chunks of my life. My deepest gratitude goes to the long haulers, who have been by my side through the best of times, the very worst of times, and the times when I didn’t know I could make it through. My first best friend and I are still facebook friends. We’ve known each other since second grade, and stayed good friends all the way through high school. I moved away, she left for school, and we lost touch for a long time, but have since reconnected and stay in touch. While it’s been a while, I still feel to this day I could call her and say “I NEED you” and she would come, just as I would for her. She holds such a special place in my heart, because she knew the youngest me, the dreamer, the girl who wanted to be a dolphin trainer. She knew the fun me, before the world handed me hardship and responsibility. She’s known me as a wife, a mother, and a grown up with a career. She’s seen the progression of where I came from, as the girl who would wail the “fish heads” song while watching Elvira play music videos late into the night, and the girl who had a search party called out for her when she went missing (I really should document some of our escapades), to a fairly responsible mom of two. She knew my parents, WELL, and I knew hers. We spent endless nights at each other’s houses, went to camp together, and caused general mayhem. A lot of the reason my childhood was so memorable was because of her.

Another one of my closest friends I met in high school. We both liked the same boy, and it so happened he asked me out. We hadn’t know each other before that, but soon a silly argument happened. We ended up becoming fast friends, and soon figured out the boy was a jerk not worthy of a moment of our time. We’ve been besties ever since. She taught me to drive (like a maniac, as she did), she took me to her college classes with her (she’s a couple of years older than I). We cried over boys who broke our hearts and cheered when we each met “the one”. I actually introduced her to her husband. We have laughed a lifetime of laughter together, and the very best part is that I still see many more laughs in our future as we grow old. She was my roomate for years, which created some hysterical stories of chaos and mayhem as we navigated our 20’s as two single women. The week I had the stomach ebola she had gone up to the Yankee Candle flagship store and knocked on my door with a huge tray full of full size candles in various fall scents. She knows I love the fall, and she sent an email the next day saying she appreciates all I do for her and wanted to treat me to something. When I have to put up with crazy people, I call her and we collapse with laughter at the situation. I wouldn’t trade her for anything.

Some of my other friends live down south. I have a small group I know from the 10 years I spent down there. We are a small group of 4 who have stayed connected over the years. There have been some rough times. One of us became and addict, one had her fiance take off with someone else, one’s wife cheated and abandoned the family. One of us ended up on life support and almost died. That was a tough one….I remember getting that call and driving 5 hours each way to spend the day in hospital by her bedside, and then driving to John’s Hopkins a few weeks later and commuting 3 hours each way from there to visit her. At the end of the day, none of us speak often, but when I am down that way, we reconvene for a night out and catching up. All of us have kids around the same age, with three of the group being single parents. We appreciate the luxury of a night out, and often sit up until late in the night chatting and playing catchup with each other. We are a family of sorts, and when the need is there, we show up to support each other.

Back in 2001 or so, I met a coworker I clicked with. She ended up leaving the company shortly after I started, but I always liked her blunt honesty and no bullshit attitude. Imagine my surprise when it turned out we’re neighbors. She lives around the corner from me, and we have become tight friends. We house sit for each other, and each one is the other’s go-to for emergency help. We often sit around the table and laugh at what life throws us. When crazy happens, I tell her all the chaos and the two of us end up in stitches with laughter. I now count her as one of my closest friends.

Another former coworker and I clicked immediately and have been fast friends ever since. People always said we looked a little similar (my husband admitted one day he came to the office and went to playfully spank my butt, only to realize it was her and not me right before the hand connected. Luckily he was able to pull back!) She and I share so many of the same viewpoints, both suffered the loss of a parent, and we shared similar childhoods. She GETS me. While our career paths went in totally opposite directions, our lives are quite different, she is still someone I consider one of my closest friends because I know I can call her for an opinion and it will always be right and well thought out. She knows I am there if she needs me.

There are others, too, who are close to my heart. The common thread with all my friends is brutal honesty and laughter. I know I can call on any of these friends I mentioned above and I will get the cold hard truth. I know each and every one of these folks will call me out on my own bullshit, will tell me if I am out of line or if I am in the right. There is no sugar coating. There is no fluff. There is no guessing where I stand. It’s BEAUTIFUL and AMAZING. Having the freedom to be yourself and have people love you for it, with no pretense and no BS is the very best feeling. These friends have known me before I took on a role as a wife and mother. They knew me from various stages of my life…when I was a dreamer, when I was angsty and messy, when I was anxious and stressed, when I was a little crazy, a lot crazy, and when I settled down into my current life. They support me. They cheer me on, they have my back if I need them. I never question their loyalties to me. Oh, and the laughter. If I you asked me to list some of the things I have done right in my life, on the top of my list would be that I have surrounded myself with laughter. Prime example: When I worked with one of my friends, a coworker, who was in her 60’s, showed up to work in clear, light up stripper shoes, y’all. CLEAR, LIGHT UP STRIPPER HEELS….TO A BANK JOB, BY A 60+ YEAR OLD WOMAN. Now look, a big part of me now is like…go ahead girl, you do you, boo. At the same time though, this was a bank we were working at, and I had to question her thought process on how these shoes were appropriate. I mentioned this to my friend and the two of us had a great time giggling about some of the choices that were made that day. Now, 365 days later, my mother died. I was in the darkest, saddest place of my whole life, stuck in a car in traffic trying to make it down to say goodbye to her, before getting a call she had died. I was in shock. But then, a text came in. The text from my friend…letting me know she loved me, knew I was in a dark place…and that perhaps she could shed some light on my darkness by letting me know that 365 days later, those light up shoes had reappeared on the coworker’s feet that day in the office. I HOWLED with laughter. I had tears pouring down my face, for a moment not in sadness, but in glee that my friend had seen those shoes, on those toes, and had KNOWN I would want to know because it would make my day, at least for a moment, less painful. That’s friendship.

My daughter bemoaned the fact that many of her friends moved out of the school when they redistricted us. She went from loads of school friends to just one or two. I had a conversation with her the other day about quality vs quantity. I explained that having just a couple of true, honest and solid friends is so much more important than having lots of fair weather friends. We discussed how friends should be, and how sometimes, you need to clean your friendship closet, because not everyone is a good friend. I hope when she grows up, she will see that while I may not see all of my friends as often as I would like (lives get so busy at this age with work, relationships, kids, pets, commitments, etc) that true friends will always be there when you need them.

True friends we collect through our lifetime are those we can count on, and who trust in us enough to count on us. They may be old friends, newer friends, or family who became friends (or vice versa!). They are the ones who tell us how it really is. There is no fear of offense. There is no fear of being taken the wrong way. There is honesty, loyalty, trust, and most of all, lots and lots of laughter.

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