Day 29: I am grateful for friends.
Friends often represent much of the best in life–fun, adventure, laughter, loyalty. It’s interesting how we choose friends, and what they tell us about ourselves. Have you ever given much thought to the kinds of people you call friends? Years ago, when I was more extroverted than I am today, I mused over what it would be like to have all of my friends in one room together. With the diversity of friends I was drawn to, I couldn’t imagine it being a comfortable place for some.
Nearly all of the friends I chose as a child and as a teenager had one specific trait in common; they were all funny. I found this to be an intriguing fact, since I don’t recall consciously choosing people as friends primarily because of their wit or good humor. I guess it was just what I was drawn to. In the end, it made me feel fortunate, because long after I had seen them, thoughts of my old friends always drew instant smiles and even laughter. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “There’s no friend like an old friend,” and as George Herbert said, “the best mirror is an old friend.” Indeed, I was once a happy girl who smiled readily and mostly loved to laugh.
Then I morphed into a more serious, contemplative, politically concerned young adult. The friendships I was drawn to became more intense, with many characteristically deep, philosophic ponderings. I didn’t have much interest in anything superficial, particularly small talk. Some of my friends were able to bridge the gap between intellect and humor, and those of course became my favorite friends–or at least the ones I spent the longest hours conversing with. Some of my friends, however, were not as funny as they were just plain good. Not that they weren’t funny, they were just extraordinarily good…soulful, kind, supportive, encouraging and loyal friends.
I have been so blessed to know my share of this high caliber of people. These are the friends you can pick up with wherever you left off, and no matter how many decades have passed, feel that almost nothing has changed. These are the friends you still want to call, write or email, and the ones that will find you when you’re not that easy to locate. These are the friends that give you the best memories to draw on, no strife or almost none, just plain, pure good times. They are the treasure of your life, as precious almost as your own children–true gifts.
This past Thanksgiving I heard unexpectedly from one of these really good friends, and naturally it made my day…because it is always a day maker to hear from a friend like this. When we were just fourteen years old, more than four whole decades ago, we rode our bikes to the park and hung out with friends under a tree. We called ourselves “the tree birds,” because we thought that was clever and on some level meaningful–a naturalistic, environmental one, no doubt.
Steve was a boy everyone liked, freckle-faced with Christmas in his eyes, a big floppy head of curly hair like my own, the best heart, a soaring spirit, and musically talented to boot. He never seemed like a love interest to me, but that was what made him even more special. He was too good to be a boyfriend. You inherently felt you could trust him, and like he’d be around forever. We all know, boyfriends come and go–he just didn’t qualify on that level–at least not to me…or to him. Which is good…and which is not at all to say that he was without his charms. He always had girlfriends, I just wasn’t one of them. Years later, in fact, we discovered a whole cadre of women who laid claim to being the girl he chose to serenade. Oh, the stories flew. Steve played his guitar and sang to this person at this location on this date; it was wild…and he says mostly inflated.
Truth be told, he just brought his guitar and played wherever he was, for not just anyone who would listen, but kinda. Of course, we all listened. It was the early seventies, and the Carol King song “You Got A Friend” was a hit song. This boy, our friend Steve Wells, was so smart and so gifted that he already figured out how to play this song on his guitar, and of course sing it well, too. I honestly cannot recall his playing any other song, but I’m sure he did–oh yes, I believe he could also play “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago. But “You Got a Friend”–that was Steve’s signature song…and many many years later, he confirmed it was my song–because in his mind I was the friend who most came to mind whenever he heard it.
We had lots of fun over the years determining who Steve’s true muse is or was, and many laughs along the way, but when he sent me a promo video accompanying his Thanksgiving email, I was struck truly by how old we have gotten. Of course, it has been 45 years…and of course, I enjoyed the music in the promo video and his and his band’s talent, but…
It just doesn’t feel like we could both be this–um–old?
Alas the years go by.
As they say, it is better than the alternative, and…
All the more reason to get in touch with those old friends we love and cherish, and truly are privileged to know. At our 40th high school reunion, Steve not only played an emotional round of “You Got A Friend,” he also dedicated the Van Morrison hit of our day “Brown-eyed Girl” to me, which broke out the crowd into chants of “‘Debbie!’ ‘Debbie!’ ‘Debbie!'” (that would be me). So, some new wild memories, thanks to an old, old friend. Not that old, though–he can still play his guitar and still run for miles, and he has all sorts of energy. Maybe I’m just the old granny in our little duo.
We survived, and that is what counts.
Here, with his permission, are video clips of my friend Steve (the white haired man on the left) playing some tunes with one of his bands.
Ahh, so fun! As Ricky Nelson said, “To reminisce with my old friends, a chance to share some memories, and play our songs again.” Those were the days. Here are two of “our songs,” which may or may not be exclusive to Steve and me, but it’s all good, because good songs are universal, and good friendships are forever anyway.
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