So. What was your new year’s resolution? Let me guess. You joined the gym. You rededicated yourself to the gym you’ve been donating money to for months out of the goodness of your fat ass. You bought a treadmill (or is it a coat rack?) for your bedroom.
Or wait – you resolved to get organized. To throw out all the clothes you don’t wear and the crap you don’t use, and store away all the things you don’t need but simply can’t part with into big plastic totes that will eventually form an alliance in your basement and conspire to kill you while you sleep.
We all feel the need to turn over a new leaf, start the new year off right. More health-conscious. Less cluttered. Oh January, you stupid whore. By Easter, we’ve all violently tumbled from the wagon, stuffing chocolate into our pie holes hand over fist and buying shiny new crap to replace the old crap to make us feel less crappy about ourselves.
We’re pretty predictable. And marketers cash in on it. Hence the January flyers screaming sales on elliptical machines and Rubbermaid storage tubs as chunky as our post-Christmas waistlines.
As the one-year anniversary of my father’s death approaches, I reckon I have a nobler idea for a new year’s resolution. Friendship. Let’s put some energy into that, compadre. Let’s get our shit together in that department, pal. We are more than wives and mothers, you know. Have you forgotten?
When we were 13, friendship was everything, wasn’t it? We were all looking for acceptance. Someone to have our back, and admire us, and share clothes with us, and be there to pick up the fragile little pieces when we break over something tragically trivial.
Somewhere along the line, we let go. We started our own family. Our kids took over. We lost ourselves a little, or a lot. Friendship became a thing of youth. In the chaos of parenthood, a few acquaintances would suffice.
But I have been reminded as of late – if you can’t make time for friends, you can’t make it. We may not see it now, but we’re gonna need these people – big time. Maybe not today, but one day, when the shit hits the fan. And the shit always hits the fan. You just haven’t seen the shit yet. Maybe you haven’t even bought the fan. But oh, it’s comin’ atcha. Beware of shit. Wanted: friends. And splatter screen.
“The best time to make friends is before you need them.” ~ Ethel Barrymore
I am reminded of the paramount importance of friendship when I speak to my mother. Not because she tells me, but because she is a living, breathing example of how friendship finds you when all else is lost. She is a breast cancer survivor and a widow, but she is not shrouded in black. She has a lust for life despite what she has lost, because she has so many wonderful friends. She has such great friends, because she too is one. When someone is sick, she is the first one to lend a helping hand, and a dozen blueberry muffins. Dad was the same way. Always at the ready to lend a dollar, a poem, or a joke; his name was synonymous with laughter. She carries on his legacy by laughing still.
During dad’s last weeks of life, our humble seaside abode was brimming with concerned friends. And they did not scatter once the curtain fell. They kept coming back. Mom and dad relished many lifelong friendships. Now, mom lives to reap the good they sowed together.
Her husband is gone. Her kids and grandkids are four hours away. And yet when I speak to her on the phone, she is joyful. She spent Christmas in town with her three grandsons, but she was eager to get home for new year’s, to spend that time with her friends, as she always did. She is a solo act among duets now. It’s hard. But she is strong. And with her network of fine friends, she finds comfort, unwavering. And I find relief, knowing my mother is okay.
I am not the world’s greatest pal. I don’t call my people as often as I should. I turn down offers of coffee and movies when it doesn’t suit me well. Frankly, I am bored silly by the vast majority of people. But I see the error of my ways, and I’m improving. We all need to nurture friendships in our youth and maintain them in our prime, so they’re strong and well-polished when we need them most.
Admittedly, I have let some friends drift away over the years. Some of these relationships thrived on convenience and were not meant to be; it’s nobody’s fault.
But the ones that are good and true. The ones of high quality, both old and new. The people we see when we close our eyes and fast-forward 30 or 40 years. (I smell ointment.) We must cherish them – not just in our hearts but in our actions. No matter how much laundry we have to do.
“But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine.” ~ Thomas Jefferson