Currently, I'm procrastinating (I'm great at that) on grading students' final papers. The quote "We have been friends together in sunshine and in shade" has been on my mind quite a lot lately. The first of last week, a very old (the friendship is old, not the friend! Hah!) friend came to stay for a few days (Heather Mo, for the Grapevine) with her little daughter. We had a great time talking and laughing, reminiscing, discussing the perils and joys of parenthood, picking each others' brains for ideas on how to deal with toddlers and housekeeping, getting up-to-date on mutual friends, discussing current events -- all those things you talk about with an old friend.
It was such fun to sit on lawn chairs and watch the four children (four total, I mean ... I haven't added without letting you now!) wander around the yard, play on bicycles and in the sand-box, feed weeds to the chickens through the chickenwire, and climb the cherry trees (okay, so Mara and Dorothy haven't quite got to climbing trees, but the other two did!).
What reminded me of the quote is that Heather and I are the sort of friends who HAVE been together in sunshine and in shade. In fact, I'm blessed with a downright unfair number of those, considering all the lonely people in the world. Sunshine & shade friends are the sort who have seen you cry -- not the polite little television/movie cry where tears flow neatly down your cheeks while you look sort of grieved. I mean the sort where you're heaving and sobbing and your nose is running, and your face turns all red, and your mascara runs down your chin, and you try to talk and can't and end up sounding like: "Itttttttt's....jjjjjjust [gasp,gasp,gasp]....all
....so...baaaaaaaaaaaaad." Don't tell me you don't know what that kind of crying is. In fact, using Heather as an example, I don't think I could count the number of times one of us hasn't spent the evening comforting the other one in a state like that. It requires several boxes of tissues, and lots of comfort and prayer. Tea is also useful.
Sunshine & shade friends have also seen you at your most non-beautiful. My particular ones have seen me post-surgery, post-childbirth (and I'm talking about 20 seconds post-childbirth, Kim and Hilary), mid-stomach flu, mid-chicken pox, post-major sunburn (complete with blistered face), mid-mastitis (sorry, male readers), mid-Steven's-first-year-sleep-strike, mid-three-day migraine (not to mention names, but her name is Benita) ... everything dreadful. They never mention that I looked like Medusa. Even if they thought it. Even if they're like Kimberley and have never once, under any circumstances, looked dreadful (can I get a witness? It's really not fair in any sense of the word).
And they've been there in the sunshine part of the equation, which is as important as the shade, really -- not there in a squealy "Ohhhh, isn't that SWEET" way, but in a really joyful way. When I got married, when I actually did well college teaching after thinking teaching was not my gig after all, when I discovered that babies were the most fun thing on earth (Sarah and I used to watch the "Baby Channel" in her living room -- live action), when I actually managed to knit an entire dishcloth without a mistake (the fact that Rose Marie did not think my excitement was in the least silly explains immediately why she's a sunshine & shader).
I finally decided to really solidify it into words after Steven called yesterday afternoon. Not my son Steven (or my brother, Stephen, or Benita's Steven ... we have a lot of Stevens in our family) -- my friend Steven. I've known him since I was 13. I met him at Oregon Campmeeting -- we literally ran into each other walking between tents across the campground. We've been friends ever since (teenagers are good at making friends like that). He's been a sunshine and shader -- we've kept in touch all these years, even when there have been years in between speaking to each other. We just take up where we left off. We've gone through good times (like two weeks on a houeboat at Shasta with his family), and bad times (like him having to answer my question, "How is Greg doing?" with "Greg is dead.") Things that cement people together. He was visiting in Milton-Freewater and came by the house to visit before heading home to Portland. It wasn't a long visit -- but we talked and laughed, reminisced and got up to date on mutual friends, talked about the perils of starting home improvement projects, discussed current events -- all those things you talk about with an old friend. You know, like my conversations with Heather. And the rest of my friends in sunshine and shade.
Thank you, all of you.