Charlotte’s web by E.B White is the first chapter book I read to my daughter last year. A first for both of us. Since I didn’t grow up in America, I have not read the American classics and oh my, it has been delightful to discover them.
Charlotte’s web is, in my book (pun intended), one of the best stories ever written about friendship. I couldn’t help crying as I was reading the end. My daughter said: “It’s not real you know mommy. It’s just a story”. My dear sweet Kindergartner hasn’t known a friend like Charlotte yet, so of course she couldn’t feel what I felt.
I need friends like I need food and water. I take after my father. He nurtured lifelong friendships. One friend welcomed him in his house and nursed him back to health after my dad had been hospitalized for emphysema. My sister needed some time to get her own house ready to take Dad in.
Another friend visited him every day – EVERY DAY- of the four years my dad was house bound due to his illness. Inspiring.
As the tears streamed down my face while I read Wilbur and Charlotte’s goodbyes to each other, I thought of the friends who’ve been part of my life. Some have drifted apart or more dramatically severed ties. Many are still around. All have blessed my life in big and small ways.
I think of the friend whom I met in first grade. I spent a few days at her house last year when I vacationed back “home”. It felt as if we had seen each other every day for the last 35 years. Our husbands, our kids…we all got along so well. It was an incredible experience that will sustain our friendship for the next 30 years.
I think of the friend who fed me breakfast almost every morning during my last year of high school. I was removed from my parent’s care and lived at the dorms where I had all the essentials but few extras. My friend took care of the extras: the chocolate croissants, the packs of gums and yes even the cigarettes I had taken the bad habit of smoking. I got to see her last year also and yes, there’s no doubt, we are still friends though I’m the only one who’s quit the nicotine.
I think of the friend who came to the airport to say goodbye eighteen years ago as I was about to embark on the biggest journey of my life, with the man who would become my husband two weeks later. She kissed me, wished me well and left. Fifteen minutes later, she came back running through the lobby, and grabbed on to me sobbing. I didn’t know what lied ahead in America, where I was moving, but I knew that I was leaving a great friend behind.
I think of the friend who lives in a time zone five hours ahead of me. When I was a new mother, I would call her in the dead of the night, from the dark empty parking lots of my local grocery store. I would flee there while my baby was crying it out at home. Daddy had instructions to text me when she finally fell asleep. That friend, mother of a child a year older than my own, comforted me and gave me a dose of perspective. “It will get better” she would say. “I promise. It will get better.” You told the truth friend. Thank you.
I think of the friend I met at the hardware store six years ago. We struck a conversation because we both were carrying babies and the conversation is still ongoing. She’s a friend who’s stepped up when I was dealing with my husband’s recovery. She took care of my child so I could attend to my other obligations. She’s a friend I share snacks with during beach play-dates. She’s the friend I can relax with on mom’s day out.
I think of the friend who was first my neighbor. Wherever her husband’s military career has taken her, she’s taken me with her. I tag along tucked away inside her heart. She stays in touch. She still cares. Wherever she is, she’s my friend. Still.
I think of the friend I met not long ago who takes the time to text me every week to invite me to the park. I so look forward to Sundays. We are the last ones to leave the playground . Everyone plays to their hearts content: the kids and the moms.
I think of the friend to whom I can tell even the most embarrassing parts of me. With her I can be real. I can be raw. She’s known me as long as my husband has known me. She’s loved me as well as my husband has. She’s made the long journey from Reunion Island to Hawaii twice: once when she was still single. The other time with her husband and two kids. Not a small feat. I deserve some credit for their getting married and I flew back to attend their wedding. I spent their wedding night with them (she was seven months pregnant so it wasn’t the typical honeymoon). I’m the one who unzipped her wedding dress. I’m the one who toasted a glass of Champagne with her husband. We laughed so much that night. We still do.
“Why did you do all of this for me, Wilbur asked? I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”
“You have been my friend, replied Charlotte. That, in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life anyway? We’re born, we live a little, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps, I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
Thank you my friends for liking me, for helping me, for lifting me up. I am so grateful that in my lifetime I haven’t had just one but many Charlottes.
I am blessed indeed.
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