One of the most important things I have learned in my life is how crucial it is to form lasting friendships and strong bonds with people whom you can trust, and count on during the difficult times. What I mean is, the people you can call on when the world grows cold...when it seems that there is nowhere to turn. If you can also relax and laugh with these friends, and share the funny times as well, then you are doubly blessed! Because when it comes down to the moment you leave this world it will not matter what your possessions were or how many things you accumulated...it won't matter how much money was listed in your bankbook. You can't take any of that with you! What will matter is what you meant to people while you were here, and knowing you were able to be a friend to them as they were a friend to you. I'm sure you've heard such statements before...but have you really sat down and thought about it? Do you have such friends you know you can call on, and count on when it matters most?
Now, when it comes right down to it I am pretty shy. When I meet someone new it takes a while for me to open up...and because of this I don't have a list of acquaintances who's names fill numerous address books. I have the same old address book I've had for years, and it mostly contains the names of my closest friends...written in pencil. And when someone moves I change their location...the book is so old it's falling apart! But these are the people who mean the most to me, and so other than the addresses, not much will change. The ones I see the most are those I work with, joke with--sometimes cry with. And there are the ones from my years in art school, whom I still talk to on the phone and through e-mails on a weekly basis (though unfortunately don't get to see nearly as often as I would like.) These people have become my extended family! And my book is of course filled with my actual family, their names also written in pencil...old erase marks scarring the pages. Though today I am thinking about one friend in particular; the person I've known the longest, other than the family I'm related to through blood. My best friend K, from middle school.
I grew up in the country, in a little town called Pittstown, NY. It's still beautiful there, and still so small, if you blink as you drive through town you could miss it. That was the only world I ever knew during most of my childhood, and to me it seemed huge! Our house was across from a cornfield, and my closest friend lived more than a mile away. That's how my world remained, until the year I was in 8th grade. Mid-year, my family moved to Guilderland NY, so that my parents could be closer to Albany where they both worked. Guilderland loomed large in my eyes, and there were no cornfields across the road...only lots of houses. The school was even larger, making my old school seem like a closet in comparison...you can imagine how scary it was to walk through those doors on the first day. I was petrified! I didn't think I'd get through it, or meet anyone I could talk to or become friends with. I was wrong on all counts! I think it was in the cafeteria of all places, where I found K...in a sea of kids I didn't know, who all seemed to be staring my way. I don't remember if I approached her and asked to sit down--or if she took pity on me, and offered a seat at her table. All I know is ever since that moment, we've been thick as thieves...and even if we haven't seen each other for years, as soon as we're together again we start talking as if we just saw each other the day before.
Now I've mentioned in the past that my CMT symptoms really started to show at age 13...precisely the age I was when I walked into that cafeteria. And even though I was a tiny knock-kneed nerd with my nose buried in a book, and an Afro (yes, I had an AFRO...but that's a whole other story, requiring a BIG box of tissues...) and even though there was obviously something different about me (physically,) K did not care one hoot about any of that. She thought I was funny and nice, and I thought the same about her...and it's been kismet ever since! We were soon inseparable. She became my protector in a way, as she took NO crap from anyone, and I was often picked on by other kids. And K taught me how to laugh at any situation, and myself whenever I could...because she let me know it was okay to be just who I was. I'm very thankful to have known her for all of these years, and that I met her when I needed a friend the most!
K's name remains written in my address book (in pencil) and the location has been changed a few times over the years, though I am happy to say that in less than one week I get to erase it once again--because the friend I've known for 27 years is moving...and she and her family will live just a few doors away from me! I can't WAIT to write that address! Finally we will get to fulfill that childhood dream of living right next door to each other, with our husbands and children, where we will get together for weekly barbecues and family fun! Of course, I am not married...and my children have fur...aaaand, I don't own a barbecue. But you get the picture! It will be great to see K more than a few times a year, and to have her right next door. Maybe someday we'll have the other dream qualifications checked off our list...who knows? Hmmm...maybe I should at least buy a barbecue!
To ALL of my close friends and family including K: you mean the world to me! You will forever be so much more than mere names in an address book. And to all my other readers: if you think hard about that earlier question, yet no one special comes to mind...maybe you just haven't met the right people with whom you can forge long lasting friendships. Maybe you need to open yourself up a little more, and be willing to trust someone. And maybe, just maybe, you can find that certain someone in the sea of your acquaintances...that someone you can laugh with and cry with, and count on when it truly matters. And if you are lucky like me, you'll find more than one. When you do, hold onto those friendships--as they are the ones that make this life worth living!