From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

The Book of Friendship

Happiness isn’t the easiest thing to find, but one place you’re guaranteed to find it is in a friend’s smile.

Allison Poler

December 24 arrived along with heavy snow that clung stubbornly to the roads. Highways closed and the authorities issued travel advisories throughout the day. Into the evening it fell, sealing in the somberness of the day.

Let it snow, I thought. It was my first Christmas Eve without my mother, and my sadness dampened the day’s usual excitement. Any excuse not to leave the shelter of my small apartment seemed good to me.

The telephone rang. I ignored it and went to my bedroom to bury my face in the softness of my pillow, hoping to muffle out the incessant and demanding shrill, knowing it must be my friend Rebecca calling. It was eight o’clock and I was supposed to be at her house for dinner.

I’m doing her a favor by not being there, I thought to myself. How could I be joyful when I feel so lousy? I want to be left alone.

My eyes were red and sore from the tears that would not stop. My heart felt as heavy as the falling snow. My grief was piled as high as the snowdrifts.

How do I stop missing my mother?

I must have drifted off to sleep, for I awakened with a start. Someone pounded at the front door.

I tiptoed to the window and looked through the frosted pane. Seeing Rebecca’s car parked out front, I padded back to bed and drew the covers over my head.

“Girlfriend!” she shouted. “I know you’re in there. Answer the door!”

“Leave me alone!” I shouted back.

The floorboards creaked in the hallway. I heard paper rustling as she slid something under the door.

“Merry Christmas,” she called out.

Not answering the door made me feel worse, if that was possible. I wasn’t being fair to my best friend. Ever since grade school, we had been inseparable. Most people mistook us for sisters. Her father and sister died in a car accident when she was eight years old. As a result, her mother had to return to work, and Rebecca was pretty much left to fend for herself. She became a fixture at our house.

Still, my misery kept me from answering the door.

When I was sure she left, I retrieved the small square package. Wrapped simply in gold foil, it had no other decoration. Carrying it to the bench by the window, I sat down and unwrapped it: a gold pen and a journal. When I opened the front cover, out fell a bookmark with a note on it:

Dear Sister Friend,

My words won’t heal the pain. But your own words can.


I stared at the blank pages, not wanting to spoil the pure whiteness with empty phrases. A single tear fell and the page absorbed it. I wrote my name on the first page and looked at it for a long time.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught some movement on the windowsill outside. A cat sat crouched, waiting to pounce on a sparrow that just landed in search of some seed I sprinkled there earlier in the day. Every time the cat pounced, the sparrow flew away, returning only moments later to eat the rest of the seed. I am a terrible artist, however, to my bewilderment, I sketched several pictures of the bird, as it flew away and returned again. Next I drew the cat, poised and ready to attack its prey.

When the cat finally gave up on the sparrow and darted to another ledge, I surveyed my drawings.

Am I the sparrow or the cat? I wondered. I wrote the question beside the drawings, then closed the journal.

Over the following months, my stormy emotions took refuge within the pages of the book. Tears fell on the paper as often as words.

Prayers tearfully written, faith renewed. The storm ebbed as each image and word touched the pages.

I was the sparrow, foraging for answers and oblivious to the threat of being swallowed by grief.

As my heart healed, so did my understanding of the incredible friendship Rebecca and I shared. This journal was, in essence, an extension of her friendship. Even though I pushed her away at a very difficult time, she found a way to help me communicate my grief, by giving me this “surrogate” friend.

One night, I picked up the phone and dialed her number.

“Looks like the snow is melting,” I said.

Spring was just around the corner.

S. A. (Shae) Cooke

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