Friday, August 5, 2011

It's hug your friends day - embrace it!

Today I called the original Big Susan. I wept at the memory of her BFF and my mother.  It’s been two years today that my mother passed away. She was not the kind of mother that was my friend (though I relished and deeply miss our mother-daughter relationship) - but she was an amazing example of how to be a friend and maintain a friendship.  She and her BFF, “big” Susan were friends for 75 years with nary a cross word.

Having something in common may initiate a friendship but it won’t keep it. To be friends, you have to like or love each other beyond that – or in spite of it.  My mother and Big Susan were not alike. There were certainly things they had in common – but they had just as many differences. They embraced those differences in one another (though not necessarily those same differences in others) because their love and respect for one another was more important than being right – or being the same.  They balanced one another and after so many years of friendship, the differences just disappeared.

Not every friendship is fight free. My Big Susan, T, is of a different political persuasion.  We have learned to joke about this and have really open talks about it. I always ask her for her thoughts and to help me understand a perspective that is so different from my own.  We don’t always end up agreeing. She jokes that I’m way more like her than I will ever admit. She may be right – and typing that kills me.

Many of my friends and I don’t worship the big guy (or gal) the same way.  My friends have joined me in assorted Hebrew holidays and I’ve spent more than one Christmas and/or Easter with some of them.  I love a full house at the Jewish holidays and believe I should make sure that everyone who wants to celebrate has a place at my table (and every year I call the original Big Susan for her roast chicken recipe that I follow exactly - but it's never as good as hers). It’s truly a time to put aside differences. And, I’m genuinely touched when friends of other religions invite me and my family to join them in their celebration.

My Big Susan’s M and L belong to the Big Church.  M and I met when her daughter attended the same synagogue preschool as my daughter so clearly, she’s pretty damn open-minded.  I stood up for L (in the infamous dress) when she got married. I got up and sat down and got up and sat down again (I didn’t kneel, ‘cause, well, we Jews don’t get on our knees for anyone) and even walked to the front where the head dude offered me a really kind blessing instead of the cracker.  I plan on being there when M’s daughter makes her kiddie walk in a white dress. Wouldn’t miss it for the world. Doesn’t make me less Jewish –it simply lets me love my friends for who they are and what they believe.

Playing on the same team, so to speak, shouldn’t matter when it comes to friends.  For me, that is just one thing about my friends – as inconsequential as whether they are brunette or blonde, short or tall, single or partnered.  We’re friends – not bed partners and who they wish to schtup is entirely up to them. I may mock them  - openly and to their face – as they have done to me, but it won’t have anything to do with whether their partner is a boy or girl. And, I will hold them through heartache, which does not discriminate by gender

Simply sharing a common bond – be it motherhood, religion, where you work or live – doesn’t mean I automatically want to be your friend or that you want to be mine (but really, who doesn’t want to be my friend?)  I have some great friends who are fall into those categories but just as many who do not. 

Shouldn’t friendship open the door to differences? Shouldn’t if offer a safe haven to learn about something - to ask those awkward questions – in an environment in which you are already comfortable? 

So, today in honor of the best friends that I knew – if you get angry, frustrated or annoyed by your friend – take a deep breath and let it go.  If you, as a friend, are being pissy, annoying, demanding or bitchy – breathe deeply and apologize.  If you don’t understand why – ask. If they are truly your friend, they will tell you to pull up a chair, pour you a glass and in the eternal words of my late father, shoot the shit.  It’s what friends do.

Hug your friends. Tell them you love them. Cherish them.  And maybe, just maybe – when you’re old and your vision is bad, your friend will not only tell you about the whisker on your chin, but will pluck it with nary a judgment. Though she’ll probably make fun of you. And, then ask you to return the favor. It won’t matter where you go to church, who shared your bed or what you did for a living. Because at the end of day, it’s the friendship that binds you together – the love, laughter, great times and unconditional support. And, a great pair of tweezers.

FYI – If you every wonder if you can be friends with someone who believes something so different than you – I highly recommend the book, The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew: Three Women Search for Understanding – a true story about breaking down barriers and being supportive friends despite the differences.

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