Friday, November 14, 2014

Friends are the New Family

One loyal friend is worth ten
thousand relatives.”

AUTHOR’S NOTE : My friend Pam is an exceedingly modest person and does good deeds because they need to be done, not to see her name in print. My purple prose sometimes embarrasses her. But I think in today’s insane world filled with cruelty and unspeakable acts of violence, it is important to record acts of kindness. As human beings, we need to recognize, in a world gone mad, there are still many good, authentic people who continue to be civilized and practice the golden rule.

Everyone should have a friend like Pamela, a life-long mate that you can trust and count on, no matter what.

Pamela is Nancy Drew to my Bess,
Tonto to my Lone Ranger,
Ginger Rogers to my Fred Astaire.

The Pulitzer-prize winning author, Anna Quindlen points out that the mark of a good friend is that she always shows up. Pamela, my best high school friend, has shown up in my life time and time again.  And not only shown up but shown up ready to help, calling to mind one of my favorite mantras of the Dalai Lama

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Stories of kindness and jocularity in high school abound.

Pamela was often the lead in our high school  musicals. She could belt out a tune. I was in awe of Pam; not only did she have the talent; she had the lineage ------- a pretty mother who had hosted her own radio show and been the lead singer in a band. Romantic stuff for Indiana circa 1963.

I had neither talent or pedigree. I had no singers lurking about on my family tree. My family was all about commerce. And our voices were not suited for a Broadway play; more appropriate for calling pigs.

When my husband had his first knee replacement surgery in Tucson, Pamela traveled 2,000 miles and stayed with us for two and a half weeks; Cheer leader, referee, advisor, nurse, marriage counselor, she was a gift from the Gods.

“Men will be men” she reminded me while lending a sympathetic ear to any of David’s ailments.

But Pam was also a pragmatist as well as a budding psychologist. She realized that what I really wanted was to be part of this musical comedy family. What I lacked in singing finesse, I made up in writing talent. I wrote my first play at age seven and have been penning words ever since.

I became the official “play doctor” and re-wrote awkward prose and punched up boring lines. I loved being part of the whole ensemble and this experience served me well when I started writing plays as an adult. I often call Pamela for theatrical advice.

“Location. Location. Location” In high school, real estate proved to be my biggest asset. Our Georgian style country home had the biggest basement “rec” room of anyone in my class. It became the go-to place for all dress rehearsals for high school plays.

And while I was well- liked in high school, I didn’t realize till years later that it wasn’t entirely my magnetic personality that made my class-mates flock to my country home every weekend. A huge state-of-the-art pool table was the true star of the show!

Pam prepared me to become a Broadway maven, but later gave me the ultimate life lesson --cooking instructions. To this day, cooking is one of my passions and that first lesson (Pasta by Pam) whet my appetite for a life-long adventure with food.

Cooking was not even on the itinerary at our household. My mother had a permanent “CLOSED” sign, hanging in our kitchen. No diva to domesticity, if forced to make anything for dinner, Mother made reservations!

Pam’s secret family spaghetti sauce was filled with juicy tomatoes, olive oil and something I had never ever seen in my mother’s kitchen--garden-grown fresh spices. My mother had two spices that covered everything: salt and pepper.

Our friendship did not end when the band played Pomp and Circumstance. Au contraire! Pam was the role model for the saying “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”

Her most selfless act was escorting my 94-year-old-mother from her home in Palm Beach, Florida to my adobe abode in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

My late mother’s role model was Queen Victoria and at a brunch in honor of her birthday, she held court in my living room.

This soiree, filled with magnificent food, charming presents  and chocolate galore was a spectacular event if I do say so myself (and I do).

The party’s theme was “the universality of women’s friendship” and my living room was filled with my lovely granddaughter and favorite girl friends who had all stepped up to the plate since I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Armed with a microphone and my “show-off” personality, I saluted these chums who had been there for me. In the audience as well was Peggy, my namesake, and my mother’s OLF (Oldest Living Friend).

The two lifetime friends had that special bond that comes from privileged summers spent lakeside in an oversized Victorian cottage in northern Michigan, complete with nannies and cooks.

It was the last happy memory of my mother and I owe the success of the fete to Pamela.

The one thing I have learned for sure as an adult is that “Friends are the new family.”

You can’t pick your family of origin, but you can create a lovely, nurturing family filled with delightful friends.  Pamela, in my heart of hearts, you have always been my honorary sister, someone who never failed to deliver the goods.

Thanks for always being there!

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are
 the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
Marcel Proust