Storybook friendships

There’s a whole genre of books about friendship, and they always seem to leave me slightly unsatisfied. Not because the books aren’t good, because they are good about as often as other genres. No, it’s more because I wonder if that kind of friendship exists outside of books, the kind where you grew up together and your friendship overcomes your differences and you’re more like sisters. You have sleepovers and you borrow each other’s clothes and you can let yourself in her house without knocking . . . I have friendships somewhat like that now, but it’s still kind of a foreign concept to me overall, because I was pretty lonely as I was growing up.

I realized last year that I had always said I wanted a sister, but what I really wanted was a storybook sister. Very few of my friends actually have sisters who get along like girls do in books. Recently I realized that the other thing I want is storybook friendships. Anne and Diana. Benny and Eve. Harry, Ron, and Hermione (no, they’re not perfect, but they are always there for each other). Most recently the friendships I have been pondering are from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: Bridget, Carmen, Lena, and Tibby.

The first time I read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, it had just come out and I had to wait on a list for it at the library. I remember they called me and I read it that afternoon. I don’t remember what I thought, except that it was enjoyable and that I wished it had been out when I was younger. When I read it earlier this summer, though, it struck me that I was reading it as if everyone else had relationships like this and I was the only one who was on the outside looking in, instead of being able to relate. As I was thinking about it today, though, I realized that even if I didn’t have friendships like that when I was younger, my post-college friendships are more along those lines.

Today’s stellar example of that is my friend Theresa. Theresa and I met when she was a freshman in college and I was a junior. She ended up rooming with a good friend of mine and we were thrown together a lot. People always accused us of being the same, and we loved hanging out, so my senior year I ended up discipling her. We went through Philippians, which was awesome, although sometimes we would play with glitter and sidewalk chalk and watch basketball instead of doing our actual study. We talked a lot about the stars and God’s covenant with us, and I always looked forward to those times with her on Friday afternoons. Because we approach relationships so similarly, I always knew she would understand when I was having trouble with a friend, and I think she felt the same way. But we tried very hard not to leave it there, we tried to learn and grow in those relationships even when it was difficult for us. We prayed a lot, and we ate our favorite snacks, and I count her as one of my closest friends. I don’t get to talk to her as much as I would want, sometimes, but when we see each other, we’re full of chatter about Harry Potter and Star Wars and what books we have read and what we have been learning in relationships lately. We went to a wedding shower together a few weeks ago, and we spent the entire time chatting (which might have been rude, but I just don’t get to see her enough, okay! hehe).

Today I was provided with further evidence that Theresa is one of my best friends, someone I can depend on at all times: She came to my book discussion. Let me back up. First, she bought the book for my book discussion (I knew she would love it because we are the same person), then she read it, and then she drove an hour from Cary to come to the discussion and eat cookies and drink Dr. Pepper with me. The sad truth about the discussion is that no one else came. It was just me, a coworker, and Theresa. The thing is, if Theresa hadn’t been there, I would have felt like a complete failure. But she was there, so all I can think about is how great it is that I have a friend who is willing to drive that far to come and talk with me about a book, to save me from complete and utter humiliation. We talked about how both of us relate to Lena and Carmen, how neither of us relates much to Bridget (we’re not very athletic), and how she was a little more willing than I am to own up to being Tibby-ish. We talked about how friendships change over time, and how there is a very delicate line to walk between holding on too tightly and letting go completely. And then we came upstairs and talked about Harry Potter and she admired the toys in my office. She didn’t seem to care that no one else came.

I have missed her more than I realized. I feel like I could wrap things up neatly here and say, “Our friendship isn’t like one in a book, but maybe that doesn’t matter so much,” but that seems too trite. Theresa – and many of my other friends – are more to me than roles to be filled. They remind me that, as Kathleen Kelly says, books should prompt us to remember life instead of the other way around. What I learned today is that I need to stop wanting my friendships to be like those in books. Girls in books should be so lucky as to have a friend like Theresa (and Kelly and Melissa and Shelby and Emily and Alisa and Rhonda . . .).

Thanks for coming, Theresa. It meant more than I really know how to say.

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