Thursday, May 28, 2009

On friends and family!!

Friends are the family we choose. A loyal friend is worth a thousand relatives. These sayings are hanging from my kitchen wall in ceramic tile, the other in bedroom hand lettered on wood. I think about them often and find great comfort from the truth that is painted on those signs.
I am blessed with an abundance of fabulous friends. In fact I often wonder why I am so lucky when it comes to friends, but family is a different story.
As an only child for almost seven years, I cannot recall any childhood friends only family. Usually kids have lots of buddies,but my friends were classmates in Sunday school or a member of my small now extinct school. I remember two friends growing up from first grade to twelth-one was my beautiful exotic cousin Nancy who lived part-time in Florida , another a neighbor on a nearby farm, Ruth Ann , another tomboy who wasnt allowed to wear jeans who rode bicycles with me for miles on the gravel roads surrounding the fileds of corn. Lving on a farm, kids were separated by both miles and lineage and , play dates were a rare treat. Mostof the time it was me and the dog-at least that is the memories of yesterday that are with me today.

The story of true friends begins at Illinois college in Jacksonville in August of 1972. Instantly I had dorm friends, college pals, enough dates to be considered popular. There was always someone to borrow books from ( I usually spent my book money on beer not required text), another to borrow a new dress for the dance, or Jean my roomate (now living in Frisco, Co who just made her 3rd visit to spa with me Arizona -who would lend me her super wide bell bottomed Levis ;38 years later we are still sharing clothes . Those are friendships to endure. In fact I felt like I had so many friends I changed roommates every year always wanting to live on a different floor with a different friend expanding my network.
After college was a return to my hometown to teach for a year- I only remember too many margaritas, too many lonely nights with Monty Python and Mary Hartman. I ventured to graduate school -I immerssed myself in my classes and substitute teaching to pay for my .20 cents a carton of mac and cheese, or 10 for a dollar ramen noodles. I lived so much in the darkroom in the photography wing-I became allergic to chemicals. There were no friends; there was no family. It was a dark and stormy night that lasted from teaching high school to Sangamon state thru teaching at Danville Junior College. This three year vacumn of friends ended when my brother and I went to the University of Illinois together. He was a freshman and I was both teaching and studying in Shampoo-Banana.

When I went to graduate school for the second time in the fall of 1979 I found myself once again swamped with people to do things with ...walking dogs, hitting Murphy's the grad bar or Garcia's for a slice of pizza, riding bicycles into the country, walking around Allerton, taking up golf to meeet men or occasionally even studying for exams. It was a wonderful time to sit in a darkened theater and watch foreign films; it was a time to protest the treatment of the Iranians on campus by the FBI, and there was always time it on the shady porch on Green street with my housemates and lament and wonder about our lives.

In 1984, I moved to Williamsport, Pennsylvania. I was released the summer of 1991. This was my time without friends. I was a college professor in a land of people all over thrityand I was 29, aquaintances who were right wing Rush Limbaugh lovers who went to the local Holiday Inn to hear lounge lizards sing songs from the fifties. My true friends were the neighborhood cheese steak shop with extra onions and peppers please and my canine companions, who were too furry to be allowed to accompany me to any of the wonderful Italian dining establishments where I also met my friends Ravioli, Pizza and Eggplant Parmigiana.
I had two colleagues who were kind and caring,but were busy with their own careers and pursuits. It was a time when a few wonderful studentswere my family and with whom I share many memories of laughter both in and out of the classroom. However there were no real compatriots who were able to share my life, my loves, my interests.

I found my true friend mecca in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Everyone I met was on my page. We were all reading the same book, wanting the outdoor life, the green path, the explore nature-how many days did you ski, backpack and hike this year life. Everyone had 2.4 dogs and took them everywhere with them. I was home. Even tho I was a thousand miles away from where I was raised. These people shared my story. This was a community of 6,000 comrades.
When my mom disappointed me by not showing up to my first wedding,but I had four friends who traveled two thousand miles to be there(Jeanette and Darla from Pennsylvania and Karen and Tim from North Carolina) . Madeleine made my wedding dress and luminaria, and helped clean out my closet and we had only known each other for a year. These friendships have had the occasional lapse but I know I can call or tap the keyboards and they are still with me. My father' cousins and their children and my aunts and cousins came across four states to see me married for the first time at age 38.
When my brother and his family didn't bother to make it to my second wedding 15 years later, I had even more friends who showed up , who cleaned my house, arranged chairs, and read from the Bible for the wedding. My cousin Bernadette married us. My Swartz cousins, once again made the trek and I had both friends and family.

I now live with the best friend I have ever had in my life (well that is not counting canines of course). When we met , he promised me he would be my best friend-I didn't believe him but he has proven true. John and I do not live in Steamboat anymore, but I have discovered I still have a family of friends even here in the wild west of Arizona..

My pal from Illinois College days has moved here to teach in Bowie. One of my bestest buddy's and her hubby from Steamboat are moving to Arizona in July and bought twenty acres just a short horse or bike ride away. Another Colorado pal is splitting her time between Colorado and Tucson and we are able to sip martinis and munch sushi and hit resale shops as frequently as I can afford. My cousin Bernadette, her husband Paul and son Bob share their Christmas dinner with John and I each year. It is a family tradition and we dine off our grandmother's state plates. Friends and family meld and in a good way.

Even within this sparsely populated Cochise County I have managed to make new friends, Dusti and Tony who live across the sage and cactus and who were professors in Montana, Tim and Therese, Midwesterners at heart who are our social directors for all of Dos Cabezas parties, Kas who helps me with my U of A job, and Diana who shares my love of horses. Our neighbor Raven who gives injections to my horse, helps John with building and shares storie sof the Salados, and Mogollons and other peoples of the past.

There are others too who have re-entered my life via Facebook and email including extended Swartz family -long neglected by distance and time but now re-connecting for this chapter of my life.
My husband has called me a maven in people interactions; others have suggested I am starting my own hippy enclave here in the high desert foothills. Margret Mead the famed anthropologists has said No matter how many communes anybody invents, the family always creeps back.
And that is okay too.


  1. Gosh I just wanted to print and keep this forever! Such a wonderful piece. I've got to go back and read what I've missed since I lost the addy! It's interesting that you mentioned Colorado as feeling like home. It has been the only place I've felt like that other than home and here in CU (as you did too). I sometimes wonder if you can have too many friends. I hate losing people and love finding people-new and old friends. Who knows I may end up in Arizona too.

  2. It's funny how friends come and go. At this time in my life, I sadly have no true friends as I did when I was younger. You outgrow people like a pair of favorite well worn boots. You keep them in the back of your closet, afraid to throw them out, maybe one day you could have them resoled. Friends and their memories are like that for me, afraid to throw them away. Beautiful piece. I'm so happy that you are happy!