Celebrating Friendship

 My recent trip to Scotland provided gorgeous scenery, unusually sunny weather, moving and thought-provoking worship, an opportunity to live and learn with the Iona Community, and the delights of scones, shortbread, and endless cups of tea.  But even more than that – it allowed me to spend 10 uninterrupted days with my best friend.

            Patti and I grew up within a mile of one another and participated in everything from Brownies to Sunday School to Girl Scout camp, church youth group, and the emotional roller coaster that is high school.  For the last 40+ years we have lived in separate states but have made it a priority to plan at least a quick visit every year so that we could catch up.

            The chance to be together for an extended time was a rare treat.  And the fact that we got to explore a different country and share moments both of laughter and profound spiritual insights was a real gift.

            As little girls we rode bikes and climbed trees together. Now we ruefully acknowledged aging joints and aching knees as we strolled over cobblestone streets and the remote island pathways of Iona. But what a privilege to share all of these years together.

            Some of our conversations looked back. There is an ease talking with someone who shared your childhood. No explanations were necessary as we remembered our parents, meals with each other’s families, building forts in the backyard, dodging my teasing siblings, and sleepless nights during cherished “sleepovers”. There was a lot of laughter and a few poignant moments as we cherished those memories.

            Other times we discussed our children – now adults – as we shared our hopes, worries, and dreams for them in the challenging world they are facing. We acknowledged the challenge of being parents to adults and agreed that it was more fun being the young person embarking on new ventures than being the parent waiting for news.

And then we wondered about “what’s next” in our lives as begin to enter the “senior discount” age bracket. We brainstormed about the future and wondered where our paths would lead us. Wherever that may be, we are sure to offer one another a loving and listening ear and support along the way.  We suspect that many more shared adventures await us!

So today I give thanks for the gift of friendship. In our busy lives it is too easy to lose track of one another or settle for the briefest text to stay in touch. I hope you’ll spend a few moments giving thanks for special friends in your life – and I pray that you’ll be able to call or visit with them soon.

Who is at the table?

Not many people can say that their Thanksgiving table actually resembled Norman Rockwell’s iconic depiction of the all-American holiday, but I have to admit, the Thanksgiving table from my childhood was pretty similar to the one in his painting. The people who gathered around the table were all white, heterosexual (as far as we knew),  and part of families formed with a mom and a dad, with mother cooking and father presiding over the carving of the bird. Gender roles were clearly defined and not (openly) questioned.

Thanksgiving 3

Just one generation later and our family has evolved. We look a bit different now. As we anticipate gathering with our children, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, we can look forward to racial diversity, hair dyed in startling hues, tattoos galore, and conversations that touch on topics like gender identity, sexual expression and fluidity, and the roles of men and women.

It is not Rockwell’s America any more and perhaps it never was. Many folks reminisce wistfully about “days gone by” while conveniently forgetting that many people in Rockwell’s era were not welcome at the table. Or at many schools, clubs, or businesses. That festive depiction of Thanksgiving only looks “ideal” if you happen to fit into the narrow roles of acceptance.

Thanksgiving 1

These updated versions of Rockwell’s painting, featuring a gay couple and a multi-ethnic gathering,  makes me wonder – who is at our tables?  Who is in our churches, our organizations, and our schools? Do we only gather with people who look like us and think like us?  And if we do, what are we missing? Can we accept the joy and challenge of widening our welcome?

This year, whether your table is filled with relatives or whether you create a family of your own choosing and design, or whether you celebrate a “Friendsgiving,” I hope you pause to give thanks for the blessings those special people offer to you. Let us also remember those who are not with us this year and give thanks for them, as well.

Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving.

Celebrating friendship

Today I celebrate friendship. In our transient, temporary world, I have a real treasure – a lifelong friend, someone who has known me forever. Patti’s mother and my mother knew each other during their pregnancies, sixty years ago. They dreamed about their children becoming friends and growing up together.

And that’s what happened.

We rode the school bus together, went to Brownies (our mothers were co-leaders), and walked from school to our church for junior choir rehearsal. We rode bikes, climbed trees, and went trick-or-treating. We celebrated birthdays, went to Girl Scout camp, and spent snow days sledding and building snow forts. Our orthodontist scheduled our appointments so we could carpool; we assured one another that the embarrassment of braces would eventually pay off.

We were thrilled to be in the same fourth grade class with an eccentric, fascinating teacher, an older single woman who encouraged us to read, ask questions, travel, and learn. We survived middle school with stories of teachers that still make us laugh. High school included all the usual teenage drama but finally led to graduation.

By then we were ready to try something new so we went to separate colleges. Another friend realized how much we missed each other, so her birthday present to both of us was a bus ticket from my college in Pennsylvania to Patti’s college in Indiana (thanks, Suzanne). Our first college summer was filled with adventures as we worked as camp counselors at beautiful girls’ camp in Wisconsin.

And in the years since then? We have laughed and cried. We celebrated each other’s weddings. We supported one another through divorce, career changes, parenting, unemployment, and great loss.

While we are not yet “old,” we are wise enough to realize that our friendship is a gift. Despite living in different states, we make a point to see one another at least once a year. We started celebrating milestone birthday years – at 40, we traveled to a friend’s vacation home for a weekend getaway, at 50, we relaxed on a weekend cruise from Miami, and last week, to celebrate our 60th birthday year, we spent three days at the King Arthur Baking School in Vermont, learning how to bake pies and tarts.

Because the years seem to be going by more quickly, we’ve decided that we need to step up our birthday celebration game – we’re already thinking about what to do for our 65th.

Friendships change our lives.

Friends, those still living and those who are now a memory, are a gift.

Let us give thanks for friends.Patti 1

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
(Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10, NIV)