January 25, 2011
As my kids were growing up, my daughter and I had many conversations about the meaning of friendship. My son and I did not. He had hordes of friends, Mongolian hordes, they ate like Mongolian hordes, and they plundered like the Visigoths. Even in Nepal, my ex informs me that weeks after his arrival, my son had a whole shebang of friends. He’s now been in India all of three days. I expect he’s made a whole new throng of loved ones. If he crosses the border into Pakistan, he can email me a picture before long with his new group of pals.
Amy is more like me. We choose carefully. Not that we don’t like the Steve life; believe me we do. His life/party is great; we just don’t think we could quite maintain it.
On the other hand, like most people we have work friends, gym friends, also school friends in my daughter’s case, and all kinds of situational friends. If you didn’t go to that location, most of those people you’d never see again. There were friends who only lasted as long as I was raising the kids. Friends who I know through one work gig or another but if I quit that gig, I’d certainly never see again. There’s a lovely couple in my wedding album Eleanor and her boyfriend who I was working with at the time, but I quit that gig soon after the wedding, never saw them again. Another couple, Tina and Jason, same thing, knew her at that work gig, and then it ended.
Amy and I like to have a circle of fun friends and a very small circle of close friends.
Of course, Red Hen has a circle of friends. But what’s odd is how people overuse the word “friend.” I heard someone the other day refer to Alice Quinn as his “best friend.” I doubt it. I like Alice Quinn and Rob Casper and I work closely with them and I would like to think that they think of us as having a wonderful working relationship which I try not to overstep. I’ve probably used the word “friend,” but this person was implying actual friendship which I seriously doubt. Most of the Red Hen friends are similar, they are wonderful working relationships. Bart’s one of the close Red Hen friends who has also been a wonderful friend to us.
Some are simply very distant working relationships. But the good friends in the literary world are working relationships.
Which brings up the question, why do we choose to trust anyone to step into the inner circle? My son comes to this choosing with very little baggage and damage and therefore opens the door wide. I come with much baggage and open the door a tiny crack. I planned to open it only to Mark and my few girl friends and bizarrely my ex husband. (Don’t ask. I didn’t think I could keep him out, he was already in.) And then I taught my daughter my wicked ways. I have one other good friend named Bruce, a writer who I really like and see once in a while. His wife is a wonderful artist whose work I wish I could afford.
I think about how we trust people, men as well as women. I like the friends I have, but slowly over the years, I have added more people, maybe reluctantly for a person like me. Darlene, Lisa, Bruce, Nancy have all been added as friends in the last decade, so there is hope for me. I had thought the circle was closed. Sometimes you say to yourself, I’m most comfortable with just these people, I know they’re not going to hurt me, and maybe you’re right.
Once I took a chance of telling something very intimate to an in-law and that person stomped all over my heart and I still keep finding little heart pieces in the corners of my kitchen behind the stove beating like the “Tell-tale Heart” in Edgar Allen Poe, but still that doesn’t mean that every time you take a risk someone will take a mallet or scissors to your heart.
Just because you spotted one shark, doesn’t mean you should never go swimming. The water’s warm and you have flippers, you could probably swim away in time, give it a try.