Tuesday, July 21, 2009
My First Best Friend
Most of us are lucky enough to find life long friends as a child. I was not so fortunate. With divorced parents shuffling me back and forth, I had neither the time or self esteem to make friends. My grandmother became my best friend. She was my port in the storm, a calming, soothing force during the turmoil of my young life. I worshiped her. Even in her lingering ladylike state, she would sit in the mud and play Barbie's with me for hours. She knew how I longed for a playmate, but had the inability to find one my own age. We shared stories, secrets and games.
As I grew into adolescence's, she became too un-cool for me to "Hang" with, so she graciously took a back seat. She was always there with open arms when I came running back, so desperately needing a friend to talk with.
I married and traveled the world and still considered her my best friend, but distance weakened the bond. When I was pregnant with my first child, I again ran to her for instruction, sharing and a never-ending friend.
Cancer took hold of her and whisked her out of my life when I turned 25. It was then I felt I needed her most. I was devastated. Now friendless and alone, I tried to find friends to take her place. Even the Jehovah Witnesses that visited with their booklets on how to have a happy life, where considered for friends. Nothing took Nana's place. How could it?
In desperation and loneliness, I begin to believe that she was with me, an Angel looking down on my children and me. Protecting us from harm. I would talk to her at night, as I lie in my bed worried about what was right and wrong in raising my children. As the kids grew and so did myself esteem, I thought of her less and less. I took charge of my life and made my own decisions without council from anyone. I still felt lonely at times for a friend, but had no time to pursue friendships while raising kids.
As the kids entered adolescence's and I entered mid-life, I decided it was time to get some of my own interests. I took a writing class at the local college. I loved the class, the writing the assignments, the people. I started searching for writing groups to join.
I found a writing group in three ladies that shared the class with me. We couldn't have been four more different people, but our shared love for writing, bound us together from the first time we met. We didn't even write in the same genre. It didn't matter; somehow, the glue of writing and the possibility of friendship held us together.
I was the youngest in the group at 40 years old with teens ruling my life. I wrote mostly slice of life stories regarding these strange beings that used to be my precious children. My work was described as "edgy". I was opinionated, fast-talking, full of my writing and myself.
Betty was 76 years old, a successful business owner that had just finished a book on a local Indian tribe and was starting a cookbook with antidotes about the contributors. Her style was sweet, nonfiction and straightforward. I admired her instantly for the lack of filter between her brain and her mouth. She said what she thought with no regard for what anyone felt about it or her.
Nita was recently relocated from Washington, DC. Her husband had just retired from the Secret Service, and had bought a mountain in need of trees to fill his days. She was a special education teacher with a heart of gold. Nothing came out of her mouth that wasn't nurturing. She was writing mysteries and fictional facts about the people she had known in DC.
Kathy was closest to my age with three children in college. She was the personification of cosmopolitan. She had a French husband, had lived abroad, and drove a Jaguar. She was everything that class represented. Brilliant, she had decided to rewrite the book of Genesis; with her own fictional twists mingled with legend.
I thought for sure they would throw me out of the group the first time I read a story about a teen smoking a Hookah in my house. They didn't, they encouraged me, laughed, rolled their eyes at my work and taught me to edit.
At one point, no one can remember when or why, we began to call the group "The Angels". We consistently meet once a week at a local coffee shop to share our writing. We wrote together and discussed each other's lives and philosophies. I was addicted from the start. I lived for the five-hour meetings where we could argue, yell and then hug, laugh and make up. It was amazing. For the first time in my life, I had real friends. New to the sensation, it often frightened me. I was afraid of the group realizing I was not up to their caliber and throwing me out. It never happened. We were equals. So diametrically different in everything-we balanced each other. We taught each other and supported each other.
Each night I thanked God for these amazing ladies; now called friends. The Angels were in my life to stay.
One night as I dreamed of my Nana, I solved the puzzle of the Angels.
Nana was 76 years old when she died; she had a dog name Tina. She had owned a successful restaurant for 30 years. So did Betty.
Nana's real name was Nita. In her younger life, she was a teacher and married to a police officer. So was Nita.
Nana was small in build. Barely weighing 100 pounds. She had three children and was a patient, soft-spoken lady of class. So was Kathy.
Nana was with me in the incarnation of a writing group and three wonderful women now known as the Angles. She was still being the best friend anyone could have, even from the distance of heaven.