Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Importance of Friends

Friendships multiply Joys and divide Griefs. – Thomas Fuller

Three friends and I met at Winger’s in Brigham City for lunch recently. We first became friends in high school and college, and our lives have taken us in multiple directions. It seems a bit odd that Brigham City is now the central meeting place.

Do you know how to tell you’ve got a true friend? She’s someone who suggests lunch at Maddox but is perfectly happy to substitute Wingers when you plead poverty at the end of the month. A true friend is more interested in great conversation than in great food. (I have three true friends!)

Six months have passed since I last saw these friends. Julie shocked Mindi and me when she walked in with short dark hair. (We’ve always known her as a blonde.) The waitress saw that we were still waiting for another friend, but wondered if we wanted to order before she arrived. We all looked at each other. I said, “It is Jennifer.” After exchanging knowing glances, we unanimously told the waitress we’d wait a bit longer.

When Jennifer found us in the corner booth, the four of us probably sounded like a coop of reunited chickens. Baa-gock! Look at your hair. Cluck-cluck, what happened to your eyelid? Bok-bok, where did you get that jacket?

After settling in a bit and making our orders, we got down to the business of catching up. Mindi reported that they’d finally figured out what had been causing her daughter’s health problems – a thyroid disorder. Things were looking up. Jennifer described her latest successful craft project -- making sugar peek-a-boo Easter eggs with her girls. (Jennifer seems always to be having culinary adventures.) Julie, however, had sobering news. Her ten-year-old niece was dying of a brain tumor.

A collective hush fell over our corner of the restaurant. We spoke in subdued voices. We wondered how Julie’s sister is coping. How has her niece handled so large a trial at such a young age? How have her own children reacted to their cousin’s failing health? As Julie talked, our faces expressed our spoken and unspoken shock, concern and love. Our conversation centered on the necessities of life: faith, family, friends.

Our food came, and the prospect of eating something we didn’t have to prepare lifted our spirits some. We began grousing a bit about the realities of being The Mom. Mindi mentioned that in the last year she’s probably gone to bed in the P.M. hours only about ten times. Julie also burned the midnight oil. Of all of us, I went to bed the earliest. Laundry came up. Jen and Mindi do multiple loads a day, but Julie and I are once-a-week washers. Only Julie wins for the most loads – TEN every Monday! Jennifer seems to do the least laundry, possibly because her husband’s work requires him to use a dry cleaner for his shirts. That led us to the joys of ironing.

“Ironing?” Julie said. “Who irons? I only buy permanent press shirts that don’t need ironing. And I especially love it when the boy’s white Sunday shirts come with stain guard. In fact, my six-year-old didn’t even know the name for an iron. In trying to describe it to me one day he said, ‘… you know, the thing that gets really hot and then you smash clothes with it.’”

We all laughed. I laughed until I snorted. A really big snort. The waitress even heard it.

I basked in the moment. I have a friend whose children don’t even know the name for an iron. No wonder we’re friends! Jennifer grew so tired of hearing her kids complain about planned family activities that she cancelled the family bike ride and had them clean the house instead. That’s my kind of mother! Mindi’s first calling in the Relief Society was as her ward’s Relief Society President. What a woman!

All too soon our plates were picked over, and we paid our checks. We lingered and laughed until the realities of kids coming home from school and neighbors tending nap-deprived children broke up our outing.

Jennifer summed up the necessity of our lunchtime get-togethers. “It’s so good to get together with you women. I love to laugh with other adults and feel normal, for so often I walk away from my kids and wonder if I am off my rocker.”

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