“Never a Christmas Morning…….Never the old year ends
But someone thinks of someone, Old days, old times, old friends”—-Anonymous
My Christmas cards several years ago ( probably more like 15 or 20 years ago) had that poem on them. It was unattributed and when I have tried to find the name of the author I have not been successful. I love the succinct way those few lines can make me nostalgic, maudlin, sad and full of fond memories all at the same time.
One of the things the early years of socialization, which in my case consisted of Jack and Jill ( a black middle class, some would say snobby, organization for children), church and school, do not prepare you for the realities of true friendship. Relationships among adolescents, romantic and platonic, rise and fall like waves on the sea. The person who is your BFF this month may be either ignored or despised next month. I have never been in a fight, never hit anyone in anger or been hit by another, but I remember junior high school and high school fights and they were frequently between girls or boys who had been fast friends not so long before. As a matter of fact some of the most intense fights took place between “friends.” This was partially caused by the fact that friends often tell friends things they do not want widely known.When the friendship breaks down all of the secrets become fair game.
In junior high I remember an epic battle, the two antagonists, Sharon and Cynthia had been fast friends. Who knows why the friendship broke, but Cynthia announced to the 8th grade class that Sharon not only did not have, or need, a bra, but that she had not yet started having her period. This took place while the teacher, Mrs. Brooks, was out in the hall scolding another student for misbehaving. Mrs. Brooks was a kindly, mild mannered woman and she was horrified to find that not only had a fight begun ( I am not sure who jumped who) but that it was spilling out into the hallway where she was counseling her other recalcitrant student.
She meekly tried to intervene ( I learned early in my teaching career not to step between two females.It takes more for them to get mad and resort to physical confrontation, but once they get there there is no stopping them. Teenage boys will pull a punch if a teacher steps between them, teenage girls will not!) and got her finger broken for her trouble. That sent her scurrying back into her classroom, which had virtually emptied by then so that we could watch the battle progress–it had flowed into the girls restroom next door by then, to call the principal, Mr. Page for succor. Mr. Page appeared, separated the combatants and promptly suspended them both.
I will go into more detail about high school skulduggery and fake friendships in a later post.
So, making friends, keeping friends and the nature of friendship is rarely an exact art in adolescence. Nor, I have found is it much better in adulthood. I have always had quite a few friends, of different caliber of friend of course. Some few are true, no holds barred friends. These are the ones that you can count on even if you have not seen them for ten years. As soon as you get together again you feel like you never left each other. You can still finish each other’s sentences and can talk into the wee hours of the morning. Lesley, Donna, Sharon, Harvenia, Ellen, Jeff, Carolyn, Reva, Janine, Josmell any of them would answer a call for a ride to the airport, or for bail money. You know the saying, ” Friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.” My true friends probably number about 15.
My semi-friends are much more numerous. These are the ones you get along famously with, like to exchange Christmas cards with, invite to parties and attend parties at their houses, go to lunch with etc. Yet, even among this group of adults some of them morph, they either become friends or they become enemies, or they simply become nothing, they disappear. If they are open about the transition it is cool, but if they are not it can be disturbing.
Last year I had a “friend” do some dirty things to me, going behind my back to tell people things I had said about them–or in one case making up some things to tell that I had not said–in confidence to her. One of the primary requirements of friendship is to be trustworthy. If you do not want to lose a friend keep what they tell you to yourself, unless they give you permission to tell, or unless they tell you something that it would be in their best interest to tell–like they are considering killing themselves, or someone else, for example. No one can hurt you like a friend, but then if they do those kinds of things they are not friends anyway, they are dishonest, worthless creatures.
But, lets not dwell on them, lets go back to the true friends. One of our true friends, Buzz by nickname, died a few years ago. He was one of our first adult friends to go. He was always kind of the father figure of our little group, being the oldest and in many cases the most serious, although he had a great sense of humor too. Every Christmas Eve we could count on him to come and enjoy himself and start to convince his wife that they should leave at a decent hour and each year he would fail, even if he put on his coat and threatened to take the kids home and leave her there. He was all bluster and crazy about his wife.
About ten years ago we went to Florida with him and his wife and he booked the tickets. Turned out they were on Valu Jet and we razzed him for years about the spartan service. He also frequently complained about being the one who got the smallest portions when we all went out to eat. I remember going to a steak place 20 years ago. We all ordered Surf and Turf. When Buzz’s came his lobster tail was about half the size of those of the rest of us, we almost all fell over laughing. I think about him every December 24th when our guests ( including his widow and kids and grandkids) arrive at our house, and how much he loved the annual gathering.
Most of the time when I think of old friends I laugh, like the time 15 years ago when my friend Lesley was driving us all to the airport for yet another trip to Florida, and after telling us she knew the way quite well, drove right past the airport exit and had to go about three miles before she could turn around. We still tease her about not being able to read an exit sign after all her bragging.
Or the time my friend Harvenia was dancing at a pool party in Orlando to Reggae music, provided by a DJ who called himself Reggae Man and hurt her back doing a too athletic move. She tried to pretend all was well, but the next day when we were touring Epcot she kept making little moaning sounds whenever she had to move much. To add insult to injury she had bought some shoes while we were shopping at a local outlet mall and they rubbed blisters on her heels! It was not funny then, but since she totally recovered the next day it got funny then.
Or the time our friend Patty Lou, who died young as well, called the IT Pizza House after midnight only to be told after she had blurted out her pizza order that they were closed. Patty Lou was an earthy young woman and she promptly said ” Then what the F*** did you answer the phone for?”
Ah memories of old friends, some still here, some passed on, Christmas and New Years both evoke these memories in me, and as we all age–the one philosopher who said ” Time is the fire in which we all burn” , had it right— memories become more and more comforting.Many Christmas’s now we end up dragging out albums ( that is what you used to put pictures in for you millennials who think pictures are stored in files and on cameras) and looking at old pictures and howling about the stories they remind us of.
As we approach New Year”s Day I hope you are enjoying happy memories and making new happy memories. And for some of you I hope I am part of them!