When I think about all of the various friendships I’ve had over the last 41 years, I am overwhelmed with the emotions and experiences that come to mind. Some of my closest friendships are with some of my closest family members, but for this piece I am going to focus on the “non-family” friendships that have been so instrumental in shaping me into who I am today. Some of my most precious bonds were seasonal, but the season in which they lived were gifts from God and at times when I needed them most. Others have passed the test of time, but have been challenged, changed, and have grown with each season.
When I moved to Atlanta, I had already been blessed with three people who I considered to be my “best friends”. These were not seasonal friendships, but friendships that you know will last (on some level) for a lifetime…Friendships that defy space and time. Friendships, that no matter where you are, or how much time has passed, the depth and closeness remain as if there was no distance at all. Friends that are the family you got to personally pick out for yourself. So you see, when I arrived in ATL, I was not looking for another deep friendship. My mother always told me that you are truly blessed if God blesses you with one true friend. At this point in my life, I felt like God had already blessed me tenfold with three “best friends”.
My life in Atlanta was one of a stay home mom, and I was beginning to feel quite isolated, lonely, and stir crazy. One day, a neighbor of mine stopped by to borrow a bike (I think), and we got to talking. I told her how I was feeling, and she said we should go out this weekend. I didn’t make much of it, but she followed up with me that Friday. We set up a girl’s day out and went to lunch and a movie. During lunch, we instantly connected, much like I connected with the three “best friends” I already had. During that lunch, we both shared that our families had been affected by cancer, and that we wanted to do something…anything…to support the cause. We briefly talked about the Atlanta 3-day Breast Cancer Walk. By the end of lunch, we decided that we were going to do it. My isolation and stir craziness was instantly resolved as I took this adventure on full throttle. Sister Love (our team’s name) was created, two other members were recruited, binders were made, and a training schedule was in effect. Our training schedule was serious and grueling at times…we walked up to 18-20 miles in one day. The other members were out of state, so it was just she and I training in Atlanta. As you can imagine, we talked a lot during our eight months of training, and a magical friendship was formed. What I learned during those training sessions was that she “got me”, and I “got her”, and now God had blessed me with another “best friend”. Since then, we have shared so many personal triumphs, heart wrenching journeys, and have watched our words become reality as we shared our desires for our families, our careers, and making "ourselves" better. Our friendship makes me smile because it is gentle and nurturing, and though it can be really strong and deep, it is sweet and light. Five years later, it is solid as a rock that I have come to depend and count on. She has seen and held me up at my worst and has cheered and celebrated my personal triumphs, and I hope that I have been even a fraction of what she has been for me. I simply could not imagine my life without her and her beautiful family in it.
When I reflect on all of my “best” friendships, our first encounters happened very similarly to this one. My sophomore year in college, when I was really searching for “my place”, and I was at an all time low in the confidence area, I met this totally wild, carefree, confident, smart girl that lived down the hall from me. Our first encounter was her asking me if she could put her rum punch in my fridge (the 1st day we moved in to the dorms). I said yes, but was thinking, “oh lord, what are we in for this semester”. One evening I was sitting outside of my dorm, and she was on her way in. She sat down and we began to talk. Instantly we had so much in common. We talked about so much that night. Similarly to me, she was racially mixed with Jamaican (black) and English (white) and she talked about how she wanted to go back to Jamaica and make a difference in the government. She was very militant…and I like that. At this point in my life, I had not met anyone else that was of mixed heritage (and proud and ok with it), so that in itself was amazing to me. We talked for hours outside that dorm, and a friendship was made. Now, we were some match. As I stated, she was quite the free spirit, and I was not. My nick name in high school was “Laura Ingles”, so you can imagine that many people were like, “how did these two become friends”. Well we had become more than friends…our souls had connected. She was the most confident person I had ever met. She really could care less what anyone thought of her, and I cared about what everyone thought of me. I was very skinny at that time; I wore bangs to hide my forehead, and about four pairs of socks to make my legs look fatter. I was not very confident about my studies or my intelligence, but our friendship made me begin to test my own boundaries in many ways. Of course, my wild friend got me to start going to parties, and pushing my hair back out of my face. This was a huge milestone for me. She helped me to see my beauty and embrace my big forehead as part of my beauty. I stopped wearing baggy clothes, and began to embrace the body that God gave me. We were both English majors, so we had some classes together, and she always sat in the front and always had something to say. As my confidence grew, I began sitting in the front, and at times I had more to say than she did…which looking back now makes me smile. She had such an impact on me and my remaining years of college. When I think about what I contributed to her, I believe that I gave her unconditional friendship. I didn’t care about what she had done, or what she was doing, I cared about her. As confident as she was in some areas, there were other areas that were broken and in much need of repair, and it just so happened that in her weaker areas, I was strong and was able to build her up too. We continue to be each other’s sounding board and we still, after so many years, “understand each other”…the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between.
The summer of my junior year in college, I got what I thought was my “dream” summer job. The pay was good and it was working for the city. The very first day, going up on the elevator, I re-met someone that I had attended junior high school with. For some reason, as early as that elevator ride, we made a strong connection. We soon realized after the first couple of hours of this “dream” summer job, that it was the job from hell. So we not only became friends, but we were a refuge for each other during a time of daily craziness. The summer came to an end and she headed to Spelman and I headed to Rutgers, but we remained friends. She came to visit me at Rutgers, and invited me to come visit her that spring for the infamous (Freaknic). This was the first time I had ever traveled by myself anywhere, and a whole new world opened up to me. Again, she was very smart, confident, well versed and well traveled. Our first night on campus, I was completely awestruck. I had never been to Atlanta, and I had never been to a HBCU before. I had never seen so many beautiful, successful, smart, black people in one place. By the way, I actually met my husband at that very freaknic, but had no recollection of the encounter. This was the first of many experiences that she has shared with me. I for the first time took more risks and began to travel with her and through her. After graduation, she went to medical school, and again where many friendships might have drifted apart, we remained close and I loved living through her experiences. She has practiced medicine in Somalia, Tanzania, and China. She has been to South Africa, the Caribbean, and a bunch of the United States just to name a few…and has shared each of these experiences with me as if I was there with her. She is definitely one of the smartest people I know, and I am definitely one of her biggest fans. We have shared so many of life’s ups and downs together that they are way to countless to share, and for the first time in our entire friendship, we live within minutes of each other. Our friendship though very close, was never one that required constant interaction; it was one that always had a quiet confidence that no matter where life took us, we would be there to share the experience. It is ironic that we now live within walking distance of each other. This has been a blessing and a challenge, but in the end it remains a quiet, confident, and special bond that through life’s challenges will remain forever.
When I was about 8 or 9 months pregnant with my 1st child, I got a call from a friend that I had lost contact with for a couple of years. She told me she too was about 8 months pregnant and suggested we have lunch. Again, much like the others, we instantly connected over a Blimpie Sub. We both had sisters that we were very close with. Hers was in another state, and one of mine was soon to move to another state. We simply just had fun together. She ordered coke (this was her second child), and I thought, “How could she do that to her child”, and learned during my second pregnancy, that a coke a day would be what I looked forward to most each day. About two weeks after our lunch, I gave birth to a baby girl, and about three weeks later, she gave birth to a baby girl. During their first year of life, there wasn’t much we didn’t do together. We took naps together, we breast fed together, we shopped together, we took adventures (kids in tow) together, and we became best of buddies and so did our girls. What I like most about her is that as deep as life can get, and we have seen each other through some really tough times, she is the one and only friend that I have that can make me belly laugh until I cannot breath. No matter what I am going through, her nonjudgmental voice has often helped me evaluate and look at a situation in a different light. And once we have finished crying, you can bet at some point we will be belly laughing. We now live thousands of miles away from each other, and don’t talk nearly as much as we once did, but when we do, the closeness is instantly restored. The toughest part of moving to ATL for me was separating the lives that our families had grown to rely on as a constant. Both me and my daughter cried many nights longing for our best friends to live around the corner again. Now, our families get together 1-2 times each year, and it is like we were never apart….my daughter and I cry each time we say our goodbyes. She has adjusted to her new life in Maryland, and has some really cool friends, and I have also adjusted to my life in Georgia, though at times, I must admit, I feel a tinge of jealousy and melancholy because we are not a part of each others day to day.
Well, there you have it. God sent me these amazing angels in the form of friendships. It’s ironic that each of these friendships exists independently from the others, and that they came into my life at very different periods throughout my journey. Through the years, I’ve had many other friendships that have touched me deeply, and reappear periodically, but these are the friendships that I know without a doubt will be a part of my life, in some shape or form, for the rest of my lifetime. This is my gift to them and I hope my words touched just a fraction of the love I feel for each one of them.
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