An old friend is a magical gift

Published 9:24 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Friendship is one of the happiest words in the English language. To have a friend to lean on, to laugh with, to cry with and to love is surely a blessing from God himself.  

Betty Moran was my best friend in first grade. She lived in the country outside of Nashville, and when we started calling each other on the phone, there was no dial, just the operator who when I asked to speak to Betty, she knew to connect me to Betty Moran in the country.

By the time I was eight, I moved away and never got to call Betty again.  Did I ever forget her? No, never. Don’t we always remember those who we once were connected to? A good friendship last forever even when it becomes just a memory.

In 1962, we moved to LaGrange and friendship took on a whole different meaning.  A friendly town, a loving church and a friendly high school provided me with friendships that would last for over 50 years.  

When we have class reunions, it is so special to reconnect with those who we haven’t seen in a while. I love those reunions and think I might have missed two since I graduated from LaGrange High in 1965. 

Every time we get together whether it is once every five years or a mini reunion every year, I keep looking to see who will walk through the doors and pray for those I haven’t seen in years to come home for a visit to the past.  One of those who never walked through the doors was my old friend, Sally.  

Sally and I were close in high school. She was my biology partner, my partner in crime, my partner who was the keeper of many secrets, a bridesmaid in my wedding and the Godmother to one of my children.  Sally was always the mature one who tempered my craziness and could make me believe I wasn’t crazy. That’s a good and talented friend.

Sally was the one who chose not to get married early but instead follows a career path in nursing. She moved to San Francisco not long after college to become an excellent neonatal nurse. The miles did not put any distance in our friendship. We just wrote letters requiring more than one stamp to stay in touch.

She moved to Florida before 1980 and continued caring for critically ill children in a career that spanned 46 years. While she was in Tampa, we would occasionally meet at my parents who lived 70 miles to the north of her. My children were small when we all waved goodbye after one of those visits one Sunday afternoon in January.

Not long afterward, she fell in love, married and had two children while continuing her outstanding work. The letters kept coming for a while and then one day, the writing ended. Life had finally interfered with friendship.  

I am not sure exactly how we let that happen, but we did. However, I never believed our friendship ended, I thought it was just misplaced, and before I left this earth, I needed to find it. 

Last week, on a warm summer evening, I walked into a restaurant in North Carolina to see a face I had not seen for 40 years. I had found Sally. There she was with the same raven hair and the same sparkling, sweet smile. She had changed very little, and 40 years faded away in 40 seconds amid bear hugs and tear drops.   

We can put friendship on a shelf, and we can recall events by looking at black and white photos in a yearbook, but there is nothing as beautiful as seeing a friendship come back and sit beside you in real color; alive and beautiful.  

Our LaGrange High class is again gathering for another reunion in the fall.  I will pick up my friend, Marie, and we will head south. I will call my buddies who I can threaten and make sure they are going.  But for those who I wish would walk through the door let me say this, 

“Friendships never are replaced or forgotten. Old friends are like putting on a warm blanket and sitting by a fire. They soothe your soul and help you to remember a time of agelessness and laughter. Years will pass in a second and so will the lines on the faces. Your heart will be lifted, and your spirit nourished. Come home and walk through the door to yesterday and pick up where you left off with that friend you have missed for years.”   

Just ask Sally and me who turned 17 again on a warm Wednesday night in Carolina. It was magical.