The true gifts of friendship

The true gifts of friendship

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It has been a revolving door at my house, which must mean it is truly spring. I don’t know about you, but as soon as the weather turns beautiful, my dearest friends shake the winter cobwebs out of their systems and call to see if they can visit. The number of calls increases with the rising temperature as we move into summer. I only slightly attribute that to my scintillating personality. I know the real impetus for visiting is this beautiful place we live in.

They all have bona fide reasons to come here. They have meetings, conferences, cultural events, doctor appointments, dentist appointments and so forth that bring them out from the big city or from other states, or even from the other coast. In the meantime, they get to enjoy the shoreline, the beaches, the docks, and the shops, restaurants and art galleries in the villages, and I get to enjoy them.

They all bring me something. And I’m not talking about the candy, flowers or wine that are house gifts. They bring me stories about their lives in other places, about their children’s successes and their grandchildren’s brilliance. They bring me news of friends we have in common, so I can catch up on who is doing what. They bring me memories of places and events we’ve shared, for they are usually longtime friends and, therefore, witnesses to my life. And they bring me laughter about outrageous moments we have known and tears for those whom we have lost. Most knew my husband, even my father and mother and my brother and sister, all of whom are long gone from this world but who live on in our recollections and in the stories we exchange. And we worry together over friends who are not doing so well and about each other.

We also plan for the future: plays we will get tickets for, meals we will share, museum exhibits that are not to be missed, concerts we will hear, perhaps even trips we will take together. At this time in our lives, we are free enough of familial responsibilities to dare make such plans.

We talk of books we have read, movies we have enjoyed, and experiences we recommend. In so doing, we broaden each other’s lives. We even exchange the names and symbols of equities we have heard promising forecasts about and interesting personal interviews we have caught on television. We are often fearless enough to wade into political opinions, even revealing whether we had or had not voted for President Obama and how we think he is doing. Just mention the name Hillary, and the conversation is off and running for the next half hour. Lest you think we support only one party, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush can also be part of the conversation. We cover the political waterfront.

As the day goes on, we might even lay bare some of our worries or shortcomings, offering encouragement to each other in the process, recalling triumphs that belie the worries. We might share recipes, including the men among us, and we brag about all the vegetables we have eaten in the previous 24 hours and how we cooked them.

They share stories about other friends, eventually introducing them and broadening our circle. Each newcomer brings some of the same interests, but also new subjects we might never have thought about, much less learned of. To pat myself on the back for a moment, I am pleased to have taught a small group of my traveling buddies how to recognize a Guernsey cow, which has orange and white markings, comes from one of the British Channel Islands and gives delicious milk rich in vitamin A. How do I know that? My father grew up on a dairy farm and shared that vital information with me, explaining how I could distinguish a Guernsey from a Jersey cow, which comes from another of the Channel Islands. How could we go through life not knowing that difference?

So my friends  are welcomed with clean sheets and morning coffee. Given all the above, it seems like the least I can do.