Thursday, September 3, 2015


So, I am supposed to be grading papers, planning next week's lessons, and just generally being industrious right now.  But instead I am thinking about my friends.  I am very lucky to have the friends I have.  They have seen me through good and not so good times.  In another life, the Ex-Ex said that he had enough friends and didn't need anymore.  In his current life, I think that he has changed his tune.  He doesn't say that anymore.  It isn't possible to have too many, but you do need a few really good ones.  The kind who love you warts and all, as Mama Mildred says.  The kind who help you pick up the pieces.  The kind who make you laugh out loud or, in my case, guffaw. Laugh until you are in tears even when you aren't wearing waterproof mascara.  The kind who can tell silly stories about goofy things you've done and you don't mind.  You actually enjoy it in a weird kind of way.  The kind who hug you so tightly that you never want them to let go.

I teach 7th grade, so I have spent 37 years in 7th grade. I think I remember 7th grade so vividly because of friends.  I fell in love for the first time as a 7th grader. And so I know to never, ever take 7th grade love lightly.  My sons were there once upon a time and never did I say when their hearts were breaking "Oh, you'll get over it."  At the time, you don't think you ever will.  But if you are lucky, you can look back and smile.

My love was the new kid in town.  (Yep, every time I hear the Eagles sing that song I think of him.) Dark brown, almost black hair, handsome- cute, we said back in 1970- athletic, great smile.  (the photo is from our senior yearbook) My best friend's cousin.  I got the inside track and he asked me to "go with him."  Our talk for going out, going steady.  We couldn't really go anywhere as Mama Mildred would constantly remind me.  We did go to the same church and our church had a very active youth group so we did go roller-skating, to football games, swimming, to summer camp.  My dad mispronounced his name on purpose to irritate me.  My siblings would spy on us from the the window when we were sitting on the porch or talking at the tire swing in the back yard.  He broke up with me one month into the romance.  I was crushed and all my friends and classmates knew it.  And, as 7th graders will do, I was teased.  I remember the cafeteria as being the worst place.  Boyfriend #1 moved on to a much cuter blonde.  We remained friends, but he was probably wishing I would stop mooning over him.  In 8th grade, we reunited for a month.  A whole month, before I broke up with him on one of those church youth group outings.  For a 9th grade older guy.  But I never got over him.  I wanted to date him in high school and I think we did go out on one date.  I think.  I did dance with him at our junior prom.  Much to my date's dismay.  I still probably had goo-goo eyes for him. We went to the same university, but we never dated there.  Just occasional sightings across campus.  He moved back to our hometown, got married, and the last time I saw him was at my dad's funeral. That's what a friend does.  He shows up years later just to be there for you.  I will be forever grateful to him for that. The above-mentioned sister, who still lives in SP, the hometown, always lets me know when she sees Boyfriend #1.  And that he is still good-looking.  (I can write all of this because I doubt he will ever see it.  But what's a little embarrassment at my age anyway?)

His cousin is still one of my dear friends.  We rarely see each other, but whenever we do, we pick right up where we left off.  I love her.  She saved me in middle school.  I remember sleepovers at her house, watching the Partridge Family.  Listening to music.  Admiring her beautiful oh-so-worldly older sister.  She had the coolest clothes.  I never invited friends over to my house.  A no-no if you have an alcoholic parent.  Can't take the chance. But she never stopped inviting me over.  Until she moved to South Carolina after 8th grade.  Not a good photo but the best I could do.  Me, brunette, LC, blonde.

My college best friend was also a French major.  We met at freshman orientation.  I thought that we were so different and I wasn't sure we would have enough in common to become friends.  She was beautiful, she seemed so much like a debutante Southern Belle and I certainly was not that.  But we did become incredible friends.  We decided to move to France together after our sophomore year. We worked that summer at Eseeola Lodge, a golf resort in Linville.  Great times.  The adventure in France still continues to amaze me.  I had never even been on a plane before that trip to Paris.  I had very limited funds so I had to really try to stretch them.  I learned that she really wasn't all that different from me.  She lived with her grandparents because she had two alcoholic parents.  We discovered a lot about each other one night while playing Truth or Dare in Chantilly, France, my first trip there.  The only time I have ever smoked cigarettes.  She went out to get dinner for us on a very foggy chilly night and came back with American cigarettes and a bottle of something that I am quite sure would make me horribly nauseous if I ever even saw or smelled it again.  (We were of legal drinking age, kids.)  We bonded.  She was maid of honor at my wedding and I was one of the two witnesses at hers.  She died when we were in our 30's, I think.  I tend to block out when people die and I can never remember the years.  I still miss her.

Now I have very good friends spread out all over the place.  A real honest-to-God ex-debutante, traveling buddies extraordinaire, artists, Iron Woman athletes, a crazy lady in Arizona, incredible French women, former students, a sister who means everything to me, the best sister-in-law in the world, women who have reinvented themselves and their careers when they had to, and more.  I recently saw a quote that reminds me of this group:

"If all my friends were to jump off a bridge, I wouldn't jump with them, I'd be at the bottom to catch them."

My real friends know that I hate edges, so no way am I jumping off a bridge on purpose.  I am not a strong swimmer and am scared of deep water.  And I do have friends who would indeed jump off that bridge.  And I would be at the bottom screaming and trying to catch their shoes  them.

Boyfriend #1 gave me a poem in the 8th grade phase of our relationship.  I committed it to memory and kept the hand-written note in my wallet.  Unfortunately, right before I moved to Durham in 1980, my purse was stolen and the poem was lost forever.  Or it would still be in my wallet.   I might not be able to remember what I had for dinner two nights ago (last night I do remember-- steak and scallops chez Iron Woman), but I can remember this poem after 44 years.

I googled it to see if I could find the author.  (I secretly wanted to believe Boyfriend wrote it...)  I continue to be amazed by Google and the internet.

A Priceless Gift
by Helen Steiner Rice

Friendship is a priceless gift 
That cannot be bought or sold,
And its value is far greater 
Than a mountain made of gold.

For gold is cold and lifeless
It can neither see nor hear
And in times of trouble
It is powerless to cheer.

It has no ears to listen, 
No heart to understand.
It cannot bring you comfort 
Or reach out a helping hand.

So when you ask God for a gift, 
Be thankful is he sends
Not diamonds, pearls or riches
But the love of real, true friends.

One such friend, Iron Woman, recently made blueberry jam and gave me not one but two jars!!

I am going to call it Friendship Jam.  She even made a batch with lavender essence.

Friendship Blueberry Jam
from Taste of Home
yield: 4 cups

1/3 c. thawed apple juice concentrate
1 envelope plain gelatin
5 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

Pour the apple juice concentrate into a saucepan; sprinkle with gelatin and allow to soften for several minutes.

Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, finely chop blueberries, 1 cup at a time.  Add lemon juice, spices, and 2 cups of chopped blueberries to gelatin; heat over medium-low until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from the heat; stir in remaining berries and mix well.

Pour into jars or plastic containers; store in the refrigerator up to three weeks.

Some classic Eagles from the 1976 Hotel California album. (Hope it doesn't get taken down. Copyright stuff?)

Bon appétit, all friends past, present, and future!  Je vous aime!

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