A good southern woman is taught to be a friend from childhood. (Cue Steel Magnolia’s) Southern women are bred to offer companionship, sustenance, and solace to those they love and in times of need. Born in a Texan family with northern roots on my mother’s side, I was taught early on what it meant to give your word and follow through. Add my Army Brat roots on top of this and you’ve got quite a combination of loyalty, grit, duty, and service.
Friendship, as defined by The American Heritage Dictionary, ‘is a condition or relation of being friends. Friendly feeling toward another, friendliness.’
A friend, also defined by The American Heritage Dictionary, ‘is a person whom one knows, likes and trusts. Any associate or acquaintance. A favored companion... One with whom one is allied in a struggle of cause; a comrade. One who supports; sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement.’
Moving every three years when I was growing up taught me a lot about making friends, keeping them across a span of many separations, leaving friends and starting the process all over again. Though it may not seem like it, the world is a very small place. I often run into people I knew when I was a young Army brat or a military wife. It never ceases to amaze me when I run into someone I’ve known from another part of the world, especially someone who remembers lil’ ol’ me.
As children we learn early on how to set the dividing line between acquaintances and friends. Children instinctively grasp when someone can be trusted. A child has an uncanny sense about these things. Still, there are times when children and adults overlook these hints and learn the hardest lesson of all… betrayal. Loyalty and betrayal are closely linked. Without opening oneself, friendship cannot be achieved. Without trusting another soul, intimacy cannot be met.
What a joy it is then, when friends are found who can be trusted, when friends appear in your time of need. Who, but a friend, would know without asking when you aren’t feeling well or have had a bad day? Who, but a friend, cringes at your wounds, cries with outrage when you’re slighted, or applauds your grandest achievements?
I have always envied women who have been friends since childhood. (Cue Designing Women) My particular upbringing has given me friends for life, but friends I rarely get the chance to meet or see. After putting down roots in the south and joining my local writing chapter, Heart of Dixie, times have changed. I’ve been given the opportunity to make the kinds of friendships I’ve always admired in the movie, Steel Magnolia’s. And at Okay, Listen Here, I’ve found the Southern that makes life worth Living in the friendships I’ve made with Jean, Stephanie and Cheryl.
I leave you with a snippet of this poem by Lucy Larcom, called Plant A Tree.
He who plants a tree
Plants a hope.
Rootlets up through fibres blindly grope;
Leaves unfold into horizons free.
So man’s life must climb
From the clods of time
Unto heavens sublime.
Canst thou prophesy, thou little tree,
What the glory of thy boughs shall be?
Extend a hand to someone in friendship. Maintaining friendship is a mysterious journey, a journey that begins with a simple ‘hello’. We are the fibres binding rootlets which uphold the tree of life. Each of us must help the other climb in order to bring glory to each bough.
If your friendship resembled a tree, what kind of tree would that be? And are you the root or the bough?