Events of the past couple of weeks have reinforced my belief that people who have friends are the most fortunate folks who walk the earth. As I posted on facebook last night, “I’m wondering how people make it through life without friends. Seriously, in the last few days, they have listened, advised, entertained, shared, inspired, encouraged, and helped me in ways too many to mention.”
Before moving back to Camden a little over ten years ago, I felt edgy, uneasy, and well, downright reluctant to leave the coastal area. I had raised my children there, established a career, and made some great friends. Generally speaking, I had done all of the things most young people do when they leave the nest. How could I go back “home” and leave June, Millie, Murph, Marsha, Judy, Ella, and Elaine?
As it turns out, I didn’t have to leave anyone because they all still live in my memory. On occasion, I actually get to see some of them. This past week, I met with June for a few hours as we went over a manuscript that she had volunteered to proofread for me (yes, she volunteered). We also dined on a healthy lunch before sauntering over to check out the renovations to her daughter’s house. A true friend, June has always been forthright and honest with me, even at times when I didn’t want to hear it (the unvarnished truth).
Thinking my husband would allay my anxiety about moving to Camden, I asked, “Who will I hang out with? Are there people there like me, people with my interests? Do you think there’s a book club I could join??”
“There’s no one like you,” he replied, and if it hadn’t been for the snickering, I would have taken it as a compliment. Nevertheless, I took a leap of faith and left the coast. Within a short period of time, I had met dozens of people, many of whom would become close friends over the next several years. There’s Carol, my department chair, who taught me a lesson right away. I was at Central Carolina, not Horry Georgetown, and my parking ticket wasn’t going to go away by itself. Ouch. Talented and creative, Carol hosted the best Christmas parties I’ve ever attended.
Martha, Lisa, Melissa, and Nancy soon became great friends. So did Jim and Mark and Myles, but this post is about gal pals. I’ve gone on trips with the aforementioned ladies, and one of them is responsible for my foray into facebook. After a New York trip, Lisa kept telling me about a picture of me that she had snapped after she and Linda “dropped me off” of the tour bus at the southern tip of Manhattan. “Email it to me,” I asked several times, and each time her reply was, “No. It’s on facebook, and you need to join.”
Martha and Lisa and I like going to movies and dissecting them later. The two of them are movie aficionados and know far more than I about casting, nuances, actors, hidden meanings, and cinematography than I ever will. So does Melissa. We just don’t get to see her too much because she’s busy busy busy working on her dissertation. And did I mention that we share a love of books? We do. In fact, Martha and Melissa coaxed me to join Goodreads. And Martha, like me, is into all things celestial.
If I continue on with work friends, I’ll never get to my church friends, all of whom I love. Really, I do. One afternoon after working in Sumter all day, I walked into the downtown campus of CCTC (Camden), and there was someone I knew I’d seen but couldn’t place right away. “Do I know you? You look so familiar.” I said to the pretty blond woman waiting to see a counselor about her daughter.
“From church,” she said. “You know me from church. I’m Connie Fogle.” Connie was the first of many “sisters” that I met. I hesitate to list them because I know I’ll forget someone so I’ll just say that just since Sunday, Connie, Tilara, Lisa, Cyndy, Valerie, Sue, Carol, and Donna have influenced me in a positive way.
While I love my new friends, the “old” ones have a special place in my heart. Jeanita lives in Pawleys Island now, and when I’m in Myrtle Beach, I often call or text to ask, “Want to meet at Salt Water Creek for lunch?” Something especially nice about getting together with her is that we have a history that began when we were youngsters, and there’s something comforting about knowing each other’s parents and “beginnings.” I used to think she looked more like Jimmy than Betty, but now I’m not so sure.
Moving on, there are Linda and Shirley, college friends. Linda stopped by to see me on her way home from a conference the other day, and she truly put some things into perspective for me. Since our marriages, children’s births, divorces, and careers followed parallel paths, we’ve bolstered each other up on many an occasion. Shirley lives in Montana so we don’t see her too often. Just gotta say, though, that she was always the brains of the operation, and her oldest child is literally a rocket scientist who helped put Curiosity on Mars this summer.
And that brings me to today…or yesterday actually. I had lunch with Nancy, someone who attended school with me for 12 years. Having different interests and friends during those years, we didn’t see each other too often. It wasn’t until I moved back to Camden that we became reacquainted. Now we have lunch together at least once a month, and it’s been a great experience for both of us. Because of our conversation yesterday, I’m committed to becoming involved in volunteer work.
One of the things Nancy and I discussed yesterday at the Carolina Café is the power of the internet in bringing people together. While there are pros and cons of facebook, we both agreed that because of it, we’re able to reconnect with long lost friends and acquaintances from our youth. Polly, Vicki, Debbie, Harriet, Joan Ella, Cheryl, and dozens more are more “real” to us now, and we often find ourselves thinking of these friends and their lives.
For those of you who managed to read to the end of this, congratulations! Although it was a long post, writing it put things into perspective for me and increased my gratitude for my friends, old and new. And just think, I haven’t even gotten to my book club and writing group chums yet.