From the first morning hours it was a day of filtered spring sunlight and pale pretty dresses. Sherbet-hued balloons and hobnail vases and a pastel rainbow of antique glass compotes. Vintage aprons to spare, and perhaps an appearance of a certain Silver Girl, of whom we’re all most fond.
There was beauty everywhere I turned my eyes: from the small army of children romping and rolling in the grass in party frocks and wee-sized bowties, to the exquisite and exclusive new creations my friends had hand-crafted (oh, my heavenly days, I cannot wait for you to see them!), to the faces of my friends themselves—most beautiful of all to my grateful gaze.
When the shadows grew long-fingered and the late sunlight came in a tide of gold, we all flopped, sunburned and exhausted, into sling-backed chairs and toasted a day’s work with a celebratory glass of wine. To hear the laughter pealing out from our small circle, the shrieks of mirth over misadventures both past and present, one might be seriously tempted to imagine that the company assembled had never known a moment’s sadness or perplexity. It even struck me as I sat there in the midst of it all, feeding the merry banter with absurdities and ‘do-you-remembers’, how far the sunny moment seemed from even the hint of shadow.
But the reality is—I acknowledged it with a stab of grateful joy—that it’s the shadows themselves that have made such a fellowship possible. These women have walked with me through some of the darkest passes of my life. They have told me the truth when my soul was parched for it—they have not only spoken God’s love to me, they have lived it in the flesh.
They are the ones I call when I have good news. But I also call them when sorrow is crushing and when the burden of the day is too heavy to be carried alone. Beyond all that, they love me so well (heaven knows why!) that they are not afraid to press through my insecure hedges of “I’m fine” with a persistent, “No. Tell me how you really are.”
They have celebrated my joys as if they were their own, and they have wrestled in prayer for me to the point of tears. We have sung together at happy times, like Christmas and our own little made-up holidays, and at tender ones, like my grandmother’s funeral. We have dragged each other into some ridiculous scrapes, mostly involving vintage clothing of some description, and we have helped each other out of jams, often in the form of major house renovations gone haywire.
The underside of this bright-winged happiness is a dun-colored vulnerability and trust, seemingly prosaic, but utterly requisite for real friendship. I was talking to someone the other day who likened a particular burden in life to the job of carrying a piano.
“It’s hard enough for five or six,” he said, “but it’s impossible with only one or two.”
My eyes filled with tears at the thought, because I knew with the witness of the past and the confidence of the present, that if there are any pianos to be carried in my future, literal or figurative, these friends of mine will be at my side.
And even in the midst of pain or toil, they’ll have me laughing.