47: Super Friends

47: Super Friends

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

Super Friends

Ah, how good it feels! The hand of an old friend.

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I pushed the supermarket cart around the store, barely paying attention to my shopping list or to the items on the shelves. Instead, I kept asking myself the same question over and over: What had happened to my circle of friends? Earlier that morning, I’d received another one of those unfortunate phone calls. So and so had said this or that. Someone else was caught snickering behind someone else’s back. Yet another person had been found rolling her eyes about something or another.

My crowd was rapidly dwindling thanks to the dissension within the corps. I certainly could understand that; I was sick and tired of it myself. What I needed, I thought, were some new friends. I backed my cart toward the produce section to retrieve a forgotten head of lettuce, and there, in between the bins of potatoes and onions, she stood. I hadn’t seen her in over twenty years, yet I recognized her instantly: the cut of her hair, the curve of her shoulders, her voice. Especially her voice. There was no mistaking it — I was looking at Milli.

I first met Milli at the age of six when I was a small, shy student in her Sunday school class. Our crowd of five girls stayed together well into our teens, with Milli at the center of our circle, socializing at our parties, attending our youth group events — even singlehandedly chaperoning us five adventurous teenagers for a three-day visit to Boston for a church-related event.

Throughout it all, Milli had been someone special to me. Her positive attitude encouraged me and gave me confidence. Though I didn’t speak of it at the time, my childhood had been marred by family illness and its related unhappiness. Milli was an inspiration for me. She had endured hard times, too, but she overcame. A single mother at a time when single motherhood was rare, she managed to maintain a home in which her three children flourished, all while making giant strides in her own business as an artist, teacher, and gallery owner. She was the quintessential example of a take-charge woman. It seemed as though nothing could keep her down for long. I looked at her now and realized that without benefit of her example, I never would have become the woman I was today.

“Excuse me,” I said as I approached her, “are you Milli?”

She scrunched her brows quizzically. “Yes.”

It took a moment, but then the memories came back fast and furious. “Remember that trip to Boston?” she asked.

“Remember the time you took us girls to visit your art gallery?” I asked. “Remember the art lessons I took in your studio? Remember that backyard barbecue?” We laughed about the old times, but then I turned serious. “You know,” I told her as tears welled, “those were the brightest moments of my childhood.”

“I had no idea,” she answered. She reached over and took my hand. “We have to talk more.”

That afternoon we exchanged phone numbers and what had started out many years before as an association between a teacher and a child blossomed into a wonderful new friendship between two grown women. In the year that has passed since we reconnected, I have helped her prepare for an art exhibit and she has sat in the audience and cheered for me as I received a poetry award. We get together whenever, as Milli says, the spirit moves us, which is pretty often. We chat over the phone or over lunch or most recently, outdoors in her backyard where we created our own individual pieces of artwork side by side: hers in watercolors and mine in pastels. Each time is a joy-filled occasion with talk of old times and new times in that same positive style that Milli always had and helped to nurture in me. She continues to encourage and inspire me and perhaps, I like to think, sometimes I do the same for her.

That’s what true friendship is all about: building each other up, recognizing the best in each other. In this crowd of two, there is no whispering behind anyone’s back, no snickering or eye-rolling. In this crowd there is just friendship. True friendship. Or as Millie said yesterday as we sat and painted together, super friendship.

~Monica A. Andermann

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