This Friendly Month
If April is the cruelest month, as T.S. Eliot contended, then July must be the friendliest. At least ten countries celebrate Friendship Day in July: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
What better time, then, to commemorate a 33-year testament to an even longer friendship?
This particular tradition began in 1987, when I bought a blank book and wrote an entry in it for my friend Cindi’s birthday, promising to add another entry every year. With the exception of a few years that I somehow let slide by, I’ve kept my word, documenting the ups and downs of our lives—often eerily parallel—and our passage from thirty-somethings to senior citizens.
Our friendship goes back even further. My first recollections of Cindi are from fifth grade, when we were in different classes but sometimes hung out together on the playground. We got to know each other better in junior high and were best of friends by high school, when we spent countless hours cruising the Sonic together. When I moved away to Samoa, Cindi saved my letters, which proved invaluable in writing my memoir Mango Rash: Coming of Age in the Land of Frangipani and Fanta. In college, we were protest and peace-march buddies.
Then we moved to different parts of the country: Cindi to Texas, me to California, then Kansas and Michigan. Yet we never lost touch, continuing to exchange letters and phone calls, then transitioning to email, and visiting each other when we could. In time, our interests and political leanings diverged. Quite a bit. I wouldn’t say we’re on opposite ends of the spectrum now—we still agree on many issues—but we do have distinct differences. Once that became apparent, though, we made a conscious decision not to let those differences undermine our friendship.
Fortunately, one thing we’ll always have in common is our offbeat sense of humor. That, and the birthday book—along with cards, calls, and emails—continue to cement our bond. Every year, Cindi mails the book back to me, and every year I write my entry—sometimes adding a photo of the two of us together, if we’ve managed a rendezvous that year—before mailing the book back. After all these years, the cloth cover, decorated with pressed flowers, has begun to fray. I guess that’s to be expected. We’re not quite as fresh as we were thirty-three years ago, either (though we like the think we are).
As memories have filled the book, and it’s become more precious to both of us, we’ve wondered if mailing it back and forth might be too risky, if maybe I should find a different way of adding entries.
That thought crossed my mind this year as I put the book in the mail a few weeks ago, intending for it to reach Cindi in plenty of time for her June birthday.
And then—oh, no—it happened.
Due to a post office snafu so byzantine it would take another whole blog post to detail, the book was lost in the mail. Not only did it not arrive in time for Cindi’s birthday, it went missing without tracking information, so there was no way of finding out where it had gone.
We consoled ourselves with the knowledge we’d both made photocopies of the pages. Cindi wasn’t sure where she’d put hers, but I was pretty sure I’d made a copy just last year and put it in a file under her name. Sure enough, I found the copy in the file, only to discover I hadn’t made it last year, I’d made it nine years ago.
Now, as we wait for the book to show up—and we have to believe it will show up—I look back at pictures from all those years and re-read the entries I managed to save and know that, book or no book, we’ll always have something worth celebrating.
7/1/2020 06:22:37 am
I love this story so much! And as if your tradition isn't wonderful enough, you have all these pix in fab settings. And the same hairdos! I also admire how you navigated your political parting of the ways. Cheers to you and Cindi for showing us how friendship is done.
7/1/2020 08:52:36 am
Funny thing about the hairdos: It was never intentional. Sometimes we didn't even know we had the same hairdo until we got together or saw pictures of each other. Just another example of some of the strange parallels in our lives.
7/1/2020 06:54:03 am
What Emily said!
7/1/2020 08:53:54 am
7/1/2020 06:58:32 am
Great photos to go with your friendship story. Thanks so much for sharing! Interestingly I just recently wrote a friendship story for my journal group; about a friendship that surprisingly emerged from a"bad first impression ". Then,it blossomed into a particularly meaningful and close connection.
7/1/2020 08:55:57 am
I'd love to read that story, Tonya. I've had quite a few friendships (and one marriage--to my late husband Brian) that surprisingly emerged from a bad first impression.
7/1/2020 07:37:11 am
I love this!! One of the things I most admire about you, Nancy, is how you treasure your friends and nurture your relationships.
7/1/2020 08:56:49 am
That's because my friends are all such treasures!
7/1/2020 09:44:01 am
I love this SO much! And a special thank you to Cindi for saving all your letters. The book will show up. Just as I haven’t quite given up that my letters to Christine will resurface some day. The pictures are just as I remember you both—gorgeous!!
7/6/2020 12:02:15 pm
I really hope those letters do turn up somewhere, somehow, Katherine. Fingers crossed!
7/1/2020 09:45:46 am
Because I lack your talent for writing, this will be sadly inadequate, but from the heart.
7/6/2020 12:04:16 pm
I'm still laughing about that kimono showing.
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Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.