The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX


May 11, 2013

Sometimes even good friends can butt heads

GREENVILLE — As the song says, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

Today, at the risk of sounding like a Hallmark Card, I’m going to reflect a bit on friendship.

Figuring that there must be a National Friendship Day or Week, I looked on the Internet but kept getting unrelated sites like National Car Rental or National Geographic. Finally I found a National Friendship Day listing and learned that the observation was started by the founder of Hallmark Cards — what a surprise.

However, since the day supposedly comes in either July or August and no one is quite sure which is accurate, let’s just go ahead and think about friendship right now.

The first thing that came to my mind is that I could probably be considered a bit of a loner. Much as I cherish and appreciate my friends, I’ve never been one to spend hours on the phone talking. Most of my telephone conversations are relatively brief and as light as I can make them — laughing or perhaps musing over life’s vagaries in general and our own goofiness in particular.

For example, a Greenville friend once called to pass on a theory which was being circulated at the time that claimed dementia was brought on by the continual use of aluminum cookware which released bad chemicals into the body. There was no proof of this and we didn’t really believe it, but from that moment on, if either of us had a “senior moment” of forgetfulness, we jokingly attributed it to pots and pans: “You’ve been spending too much time at the stove.”

At any rate it seemed a good excuse to go out for dinner instead.

As I’ve grown older and my parents and other elderly family members have died, friends I knew from high school and college days have become doubly precious. We’re scattered all over the country and seldom see each other, but we keep in touch by Christmas letters, the occasional phone call and, when I’ve been able to manage it, a trip up north for school reunions. Emails also help.

But why hang on to the past, some may ask.

That’s easy — because they are the only people left who share the same early memories and references I do. We knew each other when our personalities and attitudes were just forming, before we had grown into the adults we would become. Some of them remember when my brother, as a joke, set the mantle clock back on New Year’s Eve to fool my parents who were hosting a party. This totally screwed up the chiming mechanism, and Ted started his new year in hot water.

They remember when we silly girls pasted color photos of movie star Alan Ladd inside our school lockers, or later sat through three consecutive showings of “A Song to Remember” because we were besotted with the star, Cornel Wilde. (I blush to remember.)

Others recall when my father gave me a little white goat for a pet. I frequently took the little fellow for walks on a leash in the neighborhood — until he gave me a case of ringworm in my scalp from our butting heads together. Not ever having lived on a farm, our family didn’t know those little patches were not his horns beginning to come through.

Along this line I’ve come across an appropriate quotation from someone named Erwin T. Randall: “Real friends are those who, when you’ve made a fool of yourself, don’t feel that you’ve done a permanent job.”

Or this one from American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson: “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.”

Another quotation which caught my eye is by that fine fellow, Anonymous, who tells us: “Best friends are those you know you don’t need to talk to every single day. You don’t even need to talk to each other for weeks, but when you do, it’s like you had never stopped talking.”

A couple of other thoughts on friendship come from abroad. A Japanese proverb tells us, “When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.” And a Sicilian proverb advises, “Only your real friends tell you when your face is dirty.”

A woman by the name of Laura Grayson also has a cogent thought which I like, but I haven’t been able to learn who she is. The Internet lists a Laura Grayson who is an actress and another Laura Grayson who is a professional director of sports care and rehab in Maryland.

Never mind; whoever she is, she obviously understands me:

“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.”

Ferguson is a columnist for the Herald-Banner.

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