What is a friend? When does a relationship change from acquaintance to friend? Who are some of your best friends and why? My son on a mission recently wrote me a letter and asked me these questions. It was perfect timing because I had been thinking about friends a lot lately.
My very first friend that I can remember was Katie Melder. We lived in a little logging town in northwest Washington state called Sedro Woolley. Katie lived down the street from me. I want to say we were 6 years old. We traded clothes and shoes, we dared each other to eat cat food, we picked her neighbors flowers, we talked about how California was right next to the equator, we tried to figure out how to walk each other home and make it so one of us would not end up having to walk home alone, we threw things out of her upstairs bathroom window and got put in time out together. I was jealous of her red, shiny bike with the beautiful basket on the front and she loved my roller skates. I lost touch with Katie when we moved to California. I ran into her once at BYU in the late 80's but I have no idea where she is now.
Then there was Heather Fisher. We lived in Del Mar, California at the time and Heather and I were probably 9 years old. Heather had older brothers and sisters and thus was able to tell me all about kissing boys and dating. She had an amazing swimming pool that we were always swimming in. She and I would dress up in her sisters clothes all the time, add food coloring to our water to make it appear that we were drinking something we weren't, and play"grown up." We were obsessed with the 1972 film Poseidon Adventure and watched it at least once a week. When my family moved back to Washington State I lost contact with Heather until I ran into her in the late 80's in a grocery store in Provo Utah. But we did not stay in touch and I have not been able to find her since.
Why Heather and Katie? I don't know why. What made them my friends? Would we still be friends now that we are grownups? Best friends still?
What does it mean to be a friend? Unfortunately for people like me who adore nice neat definitions friendship can not oblige us, friendship is a very broad and ambiguous relationship, the boundaries of it are always shifting....drat. Being a friend means something different to everyone. The dictionary says a friend is someone you know, like and trust. There are a gazillion different kinds of friends....good friends, best friends, casual friends, work friends and the list goes on and on. You know how when someone tells you they are friends with Brad Pitt and you immediately ask...what kind of friend? There is a lot to be said about what word you put in the front of the word friend. It all seems to depend on the amount of time you spend with someone as to what kind of friendship you can declare you have. And of course your friendships contribute to your, "psychological development, health, and well being from early childhood all the way through adulthood"...sigh..what in life doesn't contribute to who you are?
Friendships always seemed pretty easy to me when I was growing up. I miss those days. It does not make sense to me that having something as simple as a friendship would get more complicated as I get older but it has. I know more, shouldn't that make it easier? Alas, it doesn't. The more friend experiences I have the more walls I build. I hate that I have come to the point that the three "bad friend" experiences I have had in my life have made me long to be a shy person..... shouldn't it be the other way around? Don't people long to be outgoing? My "outgoing-ness" is for sale if you want it :)
Who are my best friends? They are the first people I think to call when something happens. They are good listeners and are very good at the unconditional thing. Trust me the more you get to know me the more you have to unconditionally love me. My best friends reach out to me. I am a, "110% reach out to you kind of girl" and I make it pretty easy for you to never have to reach out to me if we are friends. So I would say my very best friends are the eight women in this world who after all these years still reach out to me. The only women who ask me questions about me. It is very comforting to me to have these ladies in my life and know that no matter how long it has been since we last talked we can start where we left off. They have every reason in the world to judge me since they know a lot about me but I have never felt their judgement once. I have disappointed them but they are still my friends. They persist when I occasionally do not answer the phone. And joy of joys they believe I am inherently good and they have never misunderstood my intentions.
Are you a good friend? How do you know?