…is not financial freedom – although that would be kinda nice. Not health – though as I age, this one’s definitely in the top three. Love, you say? It has to be love…well…kind of. The greatest gift of all, ladies and the odd gent, is friendship.
Having just recovered from Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving, we are now thrown via Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the fear that the toy of the year is nowhere to be found into the Christmas Holiday season. And in between the mad dashes to Costco, Toys R Us, WalMart, Best Buy and (when I was 15, my sanctuary) the dreaded mall, I’m reminded that while we can buy virtually anything we want, we cannot buy friends…at least not the good ones.
My very first friends in life mostly did whatever I said – and offered some great advice when I was troubled. They were my Nabasdag (bunny) and my younger sister. We never really quarreled except, of course, when Nabasdag would talk back. In all seriousness, though, my sister was my very first friend. Not one for my kind of over-the-top exuberance, she was generally very supportive of my highly vivid imagination (like when I created that weird game where we “fed” our My Melody and Hello Kitty bags with paper) and my greatest defender – particularly when my mouth (or my hyper-sensitivity) would get me into trouble. I loved making her laugh and she, in turn, would indulge me.
They say early friendships have a significant role in shaping and moulding a child into the person they become…and that couldn’t be more true. As my sister would say, we had a harmonious childhood and despite the odd tug of war over toys and later, clothes, our relationship really was idyllic with no room for sibling rivalry.
Every friend I’ve had, and kept, I can trace back to the fundamental principles of that very first friendship…loyalty, camaraderie, fun, and of course, the freedom to be ourselves.
Friendships change as we go from our elementary years through to the college/university years, and finally to our more steady, stable years of adulthood. I am often amazed, and truth be told, somewhat envious, when I encounter friendships that started in kindergarten or elementary school – for those friendships have truly stood the test of time.
When you’re in your early years all you look for is someone who can play with you. Someone on the same page:
Me: I like to run really, really fast, play hide and seek and pretend that I can tap dance. What about you?
Potential friend 1: I like to play Barbies.
Potential friend 2: I’m the best seeker there ever was and I bet I can run faster than you! By the way, did you know I’m a spy for MI-5?
I choose friend number 2. And still do, each and every time. Friendships were pretty easy and somewhat fluid then. The circle would change frequently though having learned loyalty early on, I latched on to a couple while the periphery came and went.
As I got older, my needs changed and my friendships became more complex. My circle of friends helped me through the anxieties of school, rebellion and of course, boys. Once again, while I had many friends, I also had a core group who walked alongside me from my teenage years right up until my late-twenties. Together we navigated through many firsts: first dates, first club nights, first vacations away, first cars and of course, first road trips. These were the girls who held back my hair when I’d had one too many, and the girls who were responsible for that one too many to begin with. They saw me through many a heartbreak, my chubby years and my evolution into adulthood. And yet this group would change and morph once more as we got engaged, got married and started our own families.
It is now that friendships take on so much more meaning. Besides my injured, purple-toe having, obstacle racing, and judo tournament competing (& winning!) Mr. Niceguy, my girlfriends are the ones that get me through. They share in a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, a warm cup of coffee and even a board game and in those moments the thoughts of running away from my problems to my imaginary hideaway apartment in the West Village melt away. I am not alone…
As I experience life more, its ups and downs, from the loss of loved ones, to the birth of my children, to all of my successes and especially my failures it is my friendships that get me through it all. My friends celebrate with me, commiserate with me, share the burden with me and give my moments meaning – most especially the moments that are most bewildering, gutt wrenching and awe-inspiring.
The great philosopher Aristotle said, “In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge.”
It’s true. It’s easy to recognize the importance of friendships especially when things are difficult or don’t go our way. So how about we take a moment when we’re celebrating the holidays with our families to take a moment and give thanks for our wonderful friends? To take a moment and recognize the people who give us wings to soar and provide a soft landing for when we fall?
And hey, if you’re ever looking for someone to play hide-and-seek, hold back your hair, party with, road trip with, grieve with, celebrate with, or just have someone listen to you or fight for you, I’m your gal. You’re not alone…and neither am I.
This holiday season while I’m grateful for winning the lottery of life when it comes to my family and extended family, I won the lottery of a lifetime when it comes to my friends. Old friends, new friends and future friends, I wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…