First off, I want to thank you all for the kind words and condolences you sent after my last post, where I mentioned that I’d been at a memorial service. I flew out to California on Saturday morning, early, and then returned on Monday night. One of my oldest and dearest friends really needed some support during a time so devastating I can’t even imagine. It’s not my place to give details, so I won’t, but just know that there are some things you just never should have to do, some people you should never have to mourn. My friend and her family showed such strength and compassion, even as I felt totally helpless to do much of anything other than clear plates, carry flowers, direct people to the church entrance and try, try, try to make myself useful.
Over and over again, though, I was reminded of the power of friendships, especially the ones you have for a long time. It’s so rare to be able to get together with my high school girlfriends these days, as we are scattered across the country, all of us with jobs and children and busy lives. But once we were all together, even under these circumstances, those years and changes just dropped away. We always pick up right where we left off, like we never missed a beat. I am the the one who gets picked on (always! why is that?), another friend is the one who speaks the truth no matter what, another is the caretaker, another the organizer. I kept thinking of Steel Magnolias, and that Dolly Parton quote, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” We cried a lot, but oh, man, we laughed too. I’d forgotten what it was LIKE to laugh like that. There’s just a certain way you can be with people who have known you since you were fourteen. They’re like touchstones, bringing you right back to the real you, digging down through the layers, good and bad, you’ve built up since then.
Being with my friends made me realize why I write the books I do: because all the stories, really, are theirs. They are the first characters I knew, always had the best lines, the best moments. I worry sometimes that I am getting too old to write about high school anymore, that it’s time to move onto older narrators as well. But then I spend this time with my girls and I know that’s not true. All the stories, and the feelings, are still there, with them. And they always will be. Thank God for that, and for them.