Thursday, July 24, 2008

Old friends


I spent last weekend with one of my dearest friends. I’ve known her since the day I turned fourteen. I was a quiet insecure girl on my first day at a new school, desperate to leave behind six miserable years at an elite private school where I was excluded for being middle class, chubby, and dreamy. At the time I met her, I had no sense of myself beyond wanting to please people and to be liked. She, on the other hand, seemed to be impossibly confident. She was extremely smart and made deservedly great grades – in ninth grade Social Studies she did a report on apartheid while everyone else did idiot reports on pop bands and food fads. She knew who she was and wasn’t afraid to be herself – she had a long mouthful of a name but wouldn’t answer to anyone who shortened it, while I was pathetically thrilled to answer to anything anyone called me. She was original and funny – once a truck crashed into the wall around her house and afterwards she orchestrated a photo shoot with the two of us posed as victims under the rubble. In short, she was everything I wasn’t and I was totally enchanted. I was a shy Ethel to her Lucy, which was fine with me. I was just happy to be with her on the show.

We’ve been friends – off and on, up and down – ever since. In the past decades, we’ve both been through some rough stuff – as anyone who’s faced life rather than running away from it has. I know it’s been a hard time for her in the past several years, and she’s been weighed down by fatigue and worry. And I know there’s nothing I can do to take away her cares. But what I didn’t say over the weekend, what I want to say now, is that when I’m with her, I still see the bright, entirely original, stubborn, enchanting girl she was that first day I met her. That she contains within her still, that girl and all the promise and potential in her, only deepened now and made more beautiful by the strength she’s gained in carrying her burdens, by the compassion she’s gained under their weight. She is still, and always will be, Lucy, the funny, rubber-faced, brilliant star in the sit com of my life. And if I’m any less the shy Ethel now, it’s because, at the beginning of my journey, she showed me the way forward.

I hope she knows that I will love her forever.

16 comments:

a thousand shades of twilight said...

Another lovely post, Elizabeth! So beautifully written and relatable. It's great that you have kept in touch with Ms Mouthfulofanevertobeshortenedname. I love the way you compare yourself to Ethel and Lucy. And the way you credit her with showing you how to be less Ethelesque. It's those kind of differences between personalities which can make for a great friendship. I keep in touch with my best friend from school and you couldn't get two more different personalities. I was the Abbott to his Costello, (ironically) the straight man, the fall guy. In fact I don't think we actually LIKED each other at school but grew to appreciate each other more once we started to grow up and could accept each other's differences. I can really relate to the way your describe your younger self: having no sense of self beyond wanting to please people and be liked, and being thrilled to answer to anything. It's also interesting how dynamics can shift in a friendship over time depending on one's circumstances.
Oh, and I love the story about the photo shoot!

yellowdog granny said...

i have been lucky enough through my 64 years to have many great friends..don't know how I got so lucky...one girl friend and I were like you and your lucy...except they called us lavern and shirley..shirley died 3 years ago and I miss her like a big gapping hole in my heart...

sageweb said...

How wonderful to have a friend like that. And her to have a great friend like you. She is just as fortunate as you are.

I can honestly say the people who I knew when I was younger I never got close with. I always had a little secret and it stopped me from being a good friend.

Over the years in learning and accepting who I am ...I regret not having the knowledge to understand I wasn't as bad as I thought I was. I could have been a good friend to people.

mumbliss said...

Dear elizabeth.
I love you madly and am thoroughly saturated with gratitude and appreciation. It is a fact, like gravity. (The Newton kind, not the news of the world kind). I agree with sageweb when she sees that your friend is incredibly lucky. You are a most generous historian, and a highly original and vibrant, and I might add, with a little trepidation, a delightfully stubborn, individual, always have been, always will be, .....as far as I can imagine. Your beautiful family with the adorable, beloved, and marvelous, and I might add again, at some risk, the delightfully stubborn, KH, reflects the love,imagination,and commitment that a fortunate few can create in the big muddle of the circumstances and time we have chosen to inhabit. You are the best parts of many people's lives and we are all profoundly blessed. Thank you for letting me in and enveloping me with your love and generosity. Being part of your daily fabric, soaking each of you in has left me with love and appreciation deep in my bones. Thank you for being my friend, and thank you for loving me too.
I am very lucky. I may be the luckiest person in the world.
Here's some Kambucha in your face kid. I love you. And I love each of your my angels.

jason said...

just so beautiful.
You actually made me tear up there.
Damn you! :)

more cowbell said...

She sounds fabulous. And you are fabulous. If any of my friends thought half as highly of me, I'd feel very good about that.

Willym said...

Well there you've done it again... made me smile and get a bit teary. You are both fortunate to have found such a strong, loving friendship. They are rare and you both obviously treasure what you have. Sometimes the gods do smile on us.

Elizabeth said...

Twilight - Thanks for the kind words. They mean a lot coming from you. It's funny that you see yourself as having been the Abbot to your friend's Costello. "(Ironically) the straight man" made me laugh! Maybe you and I should start our own sidekick sitcom.

Granny - I know why you've had so many good friends; you're smart, funny as hell, and very kind. Any of us who are your friends, cyber or otherwise, are the lucky ones.

Sage - Oh honey, think of how brave you had to be to step out from behind your "secret" and into the open. And the thing that counts is that you're there now for people. You're just an incredibly sweet, funny, modest person.

Mumbliss - I'm so glad you came. Me? Stubborn? (said the pot to the kettle). After you left, "Thing 1" said "I LIKE her." Rare teen praise! So I think it's official; we all adore and miss you. Especially me.

Elizabeth said...

Jason - Thanks! Making someone teary eyed is blogging gold. (Note to self: Next project - make Jason actually LOL.)

Cowbell - She is fabulous. And as one of your many cyber fans, I think I can safely say that many people feel precisely this way about you.

Willym - We are so fortunate to still have a friendship that is still real, still growing. As teens, we used to listen to Simon and Garfunkle's song, "Old Friends," as say we'd be just like that. No sitting on park benches yet. But other than that, here we are.

Rebecca said...

I feel blessed that we're still in touch. Ours was a very different kind of friendship -- childhood best friends -- and a treasure to me.

I'm so glad we've had the opportunity to reconnect and I only wish we lived closer to be able to see each other, continue the story. Nonetheless you're still part of my spiritual army and my shortlist. Please know that if you need me I'm here.

Thanks for blogging.

Elizabeth said...

Rebecca - Likewise my dear. And the older I get, the more these reconnections and continuities mean to me. And the story does continue. I think it's pretty mystical that we both adopted and that our daughters, born on different continents, look similar to each other....

I was planning, before the Knuckle Head got all exciting with his health this Spring, to drive cross country with the kids and spend a lot of time on the left coast with all the people I love there. But I'm hoping for next Summer....

Doralong said...

Old friends are the best, truly. I do so miss my Ethel.

Susan said...

What a beautiful post! You are both lucky to have each other, especially after all of these years.

Elizabeth said...

Doralong - I'm sure she misses you too.

Susan - It's amazing, especially because we met in Taiwan!

Bee Skelton said...

Very moving piece. I've just discovered your blog. I'll be back.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for visiting and for the kind words. I'll look forward to seeing you again!