You know a real friend when you have one: Girl Meets God and Into the Tangle of Friendship

Monday, April 2, 2012

Every now and then, someone will write to say that they have found my name in a book they're reading.  To be specific, they mention Lauren F. Winner's much-loved 2002 memoir, Girl Meets God.

Here is my confession.  I have read two of Lauren's books, one for review.  We exchanged emails for awhile, but long after 2002.  I really, genuinely like Lauren Winner.  But if I ever knew how my name floated through Lauren's book I don't remember.  I remember not wanting to hunt the passage down.  I remember that I worried about intruding. I remember feeling surprised and stunned that a writer of the stature and quality of Lauren had read one of my books, long ago.  Maybe I'd seen the passage at one point.  If I had, the memory is lost.

But this afternoon, Bonnie Jacobs took the time to type the passage out and to send it along.  The words, which I share here, fill me with new emotion at the end of a deep-dwelling day.  I had, it is true, written a book about friendship.  I'd called it Into the Tangle of Friendship (Houghton Mifflin).  It had been inspired by the return to my life of a lost high school friend, and by all the thinking I have done about how friends come and go, about how hard it is to know who a true friend is, about how devastating it can be when you learn that you weren't a real friend after all.  I have been, from time to time, and indeed far more than I wish, that person who proved useful.  Who could help escalate a career, perhaps, or see someone through to the other side of a dream, or listen for awhile, as trouble stirred. I have done my thing.  I have cheered others on.  I have been left for grander vistas, bigger prizes.

It's always stunning when you realize that the feeling of friendship wasn't mutual, that it was your utility, not your heart that mattered, but it's even more stunning when you know that in fact it is.  I am blessed today by having the right people in my life— solid people, constant people, we-know-we-are-there-for-each-other people.  Still, I think a lot about friendship.

The passage here, from Girl Meets God, with gratitude to Lauren and to Bonnie Jacobs:
The second bout was more recent.  I was lying on my couch one night, reading a book about friendship by Beth Kephart.  She writes about how friends are hard to make and hard to lose and how the only vocabulary we have for those losses is break-ups, romantic ones, but often the splitting apart of friends is harder, rarer, more long-lasting, grievous and generally devastating than any run-of-the-mill lovers' spat.  My body lay on the couch like a valley, my head propped up on four fluffy pillows and my legs folded in, sit-up style, my back flat against the sofa's blue-and-white stripes.  There I lay, listing all the friendships I had lost, all the people I'd betrayed or misled or just not kept up with, and then I felt gratitude again, felt it this time no less physically than hunger, felt the weight of it like a fog settling in over my stomach, felt it filling me heavy the way fruit fills a basket.  Lying on the couch, I could not believe God had given me all these people to love.  Even if I never had another friend ever, even if I spent the next seventy-five years rattling around lonely as a ghost of Christmas past, it would be too much ever to repay, all that love.  I slept on the couch, then, blanketed by the weight of my gratitude, Beth Kephart's book under my pillow.


Becca said...

And now I’m thinking about friendship, and giving in to the urge to get your book off the shelf and read it again.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

It seems my email arrived at a good time. I'm glad. I felt like I had run across an old friend when I found your name, twice in one paragraph. It was good.

Elizabeth Mosier said...

This is so incredibly moving. I loved that book, and it cheers me to know it changed another's life, too.

patti.mallett_pp said...

I loved that book, Beth, "Into the Tangle of Friendship," though I'm not sure I ever told you. (Not sure we were hooked-up at that time.)

And I love how it was used here. I cried (again -doing that a lot lately), but a good cry. The gratitude mentioned is what I have been feeling since my overwhelmingly blessed birthday last week.

Now I want to read both books, yours for a second time (not sure if I own it or not, will dig) and the other one.

Amy said...

Oh I've been meaning to read Into the Tangle of Friendship.

BUT WOW what a passage. So humbling and beautiful <3

Mandy King said...

What a poignant post. You've left me thinking about all of my relationships, past and present and how much they mean to me.

kelly said...

Today, I"m gonna be that friend who says nothing but is here if you need her.

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