Fear not the vast emptiness of the universe for
Right beside you, surrounding you with understanding,
Identifying your needs and wants and supplying
Endless support as you laugh and cry, and even when
Nothing seems focused or centered in your world,
Damn if your friends don’t suddenly
Smile, and your world becomes sunshine.
Whenever I hear the expression “you are the wind beneath my wings,” I think about how my friends have blown me through misgivings, doubts, mistakes, dilemmas, marvels, damnations, mysteries, and discomforts.
The times I laugh the loudest, and cry the hardest, are with my friends.
The wind beneath my wings.
One night this week, a group of six friends took me out to celebrate the publication of my book, The Right Wrong Man. They passed around cards of encouragement and pride, they plied me with chocolate bars to fortify me in my (writing) times of need. They gave me a bag full of ‘writing essentials’ in case the power went out: notebook, candle, pencils, pens, and an eraser that says ‘delete.’
God, I love my friends.
And I cherish the photo of us, decades later, still smiling together.
Women are only as strong as their friendships, yes?
A week ago, another friend, “Inda the Bride,” took me out for lunch to celebrate my book, and before I knew what she was doing, two glasses of champagne sparkled on our table. Her friendship goes way back, including an evening 20 years ago when my daughter made glittery nameplates for our dinner table, but the glimmering “L” came off long before dessert. Linda’s been Inda ever since. Oh, and she and her love married in our house; I even pressed the CD button as she came down our stairs, so Pachelbel Canon in D Major would soothe her jittery nerves.
The wind beneath our wings.
Just as I’m writing this, I see an e-mail pop up from a ‘new’ friend. We’ve only known each other for 12 years. A Baby Friendship. She writes:
MADS helped me survive New England winters, teaching me how to drive in the snow (close your eyes and pray), how to tutor special ed students (stare them in the eyes and love them), and how to laugh when you want to cry.
The wind beneath my wings.
When I began this blog almost two years ago, the second post I wrote was about a long-time friendship – “A Place I Could Easily Call Home” (http://bit.ly/placecallhome), and the first poem I posted explained that “Friendship sooths the rough edge of life.” (http://bit.ly/friendshipoem).
As I scroll down the friendships of my life, the special women who have helped me get through my fears and my devils, helped me celebrate my joys and my loves, I thank them for the wind they’ve provided beneath my wings.
“We didn’t realize you’re one of those ‘touchy feely’ kinds,” the couple said to me on Sunday.
At first I couldn’t figure out what I’d done wrong (assuming it was not a good thing to be touchy feely).
“Ah,” I finally answered. “Yes, I complimented the chef at the B&B we stayed in, but you don’t know the whole story.”
“You told him that the food he created for his guests came from his heart, not just from the ingredients, saucepans, and oven!” they exclaimed, a bit of recrimination in their voices.
I gulped. It did sound hokey when my friends repeated it, even though the chef made improbable but fabulous brunches for his weekend guests.
Imagine inn-made, melt-in-your-mouth cranberry scones with fresh fruit, yogurt, homemade jam and fresh-squeezed orange juice, then thick cheese sandwiches grilled with delightful homemade bread and a small cup of tomato bread soup cradled in the center of the plate.
Think tiny soft-on-the inside-crunchy-on-the-outside cinnamon twists that melted in eager mouths, then a five-inch square chef-made ravioli filled with ricotta, basil, and other savory spices, topped with a pouched egg. A weird combination that tasted like Tuscany and sun-ripened mornings.
“I read a newspaper article about the chef,” I explained defensively. “He’s the 10th of 17 children. In his family, cooking and serving meant survival and love. Plus, he became a Catholic priest until he realized he didn’t belong there. He had an epiphany on Epiphany and bought this B&B with his partner.”
“Sooooo?” my friends asked. “He serves good food to keep his guests coming back. It’s called economic survival.”
I shook my head. “This chef’s main ingredient is love. I could taste it in every bite. This is his service, not as a priest, but as a giver, a nurturer, maybe even a ‘touchy feely’ cook.”
My friends rolled their eyes.
My heart sank.
Can’t food preparation equate love?
Call me touchy feely (and I have a feeling many do), but I think so.
I’m sniffling already, and it’s only a six-word story!
Since then, similar challenges have been thrown out in magazines, books, and blogs: can you tell your life story in six words?
Well, can you?
Here’s a few I’ve come up with:
Well, that’s not my life story, but sometimes it’s what I scream to myself in the morning.
Life IS hard, I think we all agree. But can you imagine how much harder it would be without your loved ones? Your friends, your spouse or significant other, your children or nieces/nephews? Since I’ve been old enough to wonder about the meaning of life, about why we’re even here, I’ve figured out that it’s all about the love.
I’M STILL 30, KIDS CATCHING UP
That’s how I feel – like I’m 30 years old and having a heck of a time each day making it through my job, my joys, my fears, my … but wait. My son tells me he’s 30? How’d he catch up to me like that?
I love the title of a book that published six-word memoirs by “Writers Famous and Obscure” (2008) called Not Quite What I Was Planning.
I imagine that’s how most of us feel by the time we’ve reached a certain age. Are you nodding your head? Did you plan to be where you are, who you are, years ago? Doubtful!
Oh, here’s another one I just thought of:
BORN. EDUCATED. MARRIED. FAMILY. NOW FUN!
Spoken like the empty nester that I am. Yes, Virginia, there is life after 50 (um, and even later!)
My turn now to challenge YOU. I dare you to send me (in the comment section) your six-word story or memoir.
Come on, you can do it!
I want to blame someone for the horrible cold I got last week. My son is first on the list. We met for lunch in the city the week before. He was sneezing and sniffling and suggested we shouldn’t hug hello or goodbye. But how do you not hug someone you love?
Two days later I still felt just fine. Then I worked at the town’s Holiday Art & Craft Sale, where friends and strangers are all in the holiday spirit and shake hands and laugh and sip on warm spiced cider. After each hand I shook I shuttered – how many germs in that one little shake? I’m not mysophobic, although these days we’re all being bombarded with movies and stories and news articles about ‘the big virus epidemic’ sure to come.
How can we not cringe when we’re flying in a steel tube with 200 strangers and the one sitting next to us coughs loud enough to rattle the entire plane? Yuck! Or when we open a door to a bank or restaurant, following the germy handprints of dozens of others? Or when a well-meaning customer comes in to the office with a smile and a warm moist handshake?
But I believe in being friendly, so I don’t give an air pump or a touchless high five to the sweet neighbor who drops by with a plate of cookies, or the fireman who helps me, once again, turn off my smoke alarm. I give hugs.
Some people are now into the ‘touch-free’ hugs. Remember the ‘air kiss,’ a kind of European sweep to one cheek, purse lips but no contact, stand back and move to the other cheek? I see friends, mostly female, air kiss all the time. Maybe it’s the new hug of the future. Maybe it’s not a bad idea.
But it looks …. Unfriendly. Dare I even say, kind of fake?
Ahhh, now I realize who I need to blame for my horrible terrible no-good sneezing coughing sore-throat cold.
My sweet runny-nosed 18-month-old grandson.
Now he knows how to greet someone and make them feel special. Just a year and a half into this world, he’s figured out that to melt the heart of a human and own her forever, give her a kiss and a hug. But he doesn’t give them out indiscriminately. If you’ve shown him a good time, and maybe read him a book, played race car demon with him for an hour, and offered him a warm gooey chocolate chip cookie, then he dispenses that most precious reward.
The only problem is that he hasn’t figured out how to kiss close-mouthed.
So yes, I spent some time with the toddler on the Friday before ‘the cold,’ and when it was time for him to go home, he opened up his little arms and said, ‘me me kee,’ (interpreted as “Pammy, Kiss!”). While his mother held him, he leaned way out toward me and met my lips with a large wet “O” of a baby mouth. After a happy loud ‘MOWM’ sound, as if he’d just eaten a piece of high-end dark chocolate, he leaned back into his mom’s arms with an expression of serenity and happiness.
Did I mention he had a cold?
But I wouldn’t give up that open-mouthed kiss for all the germ-free touchless hugs in the world.