Friendship as Refuge

“I adore words. A good word can spark a whole conversation, and so many, many thoughts. There are words that feel good on the tongue—juicy words. Italian is a juicy language. I love words that sound like what they mean, like ‘choo choo train.’ I’m sad that we don’t use our vocabularies. The only time I use my full vocabulary is when I’m enraged. The message is, ‘Listen to this, you dumb-ass, I’m smarter than you.'”

That’s my Mom. I adore her. She makes my heart go pitter pat with her choice of words, and the way she thinks about life, and the fact that she loves me just as I am.

I spent a glorious fall afternoon at my parents’ house today. We sat on the front porch and chatted. My Mom fed me a delicious salad and homemade soup. My parents are retired and lead quiet, full lives. My Mom finished her career as a psychologist this summer and is discovering what retirement holds for her.

She describes herself this way, “I am a confused seventy-year-old woman. I hope I’m interesting because I am interested in a lot of things.” When I assured her that she is one of the most interesting people I know, she replied, “I’m afraid I’ll bore people if I express myself.” Not a chance. Other people tell my Mom that she is easy to talk to and even when first meeting her, they feel like they’ve always known her.

One of my favorite qualities about my Mom is that she is accepting and nonjudgmental. When I asked about where that ability comes from, she told me, “It comes from what I need: kindness and understanding. I feel hurt when I don’t receive that. Disregard feels terrible.” So it follows that what she wants to share with others is kindness. She says, “There’s not enough kindness. It’s simple and goes so far and does so much for us. It costs us nothing.”

Mom had her first best friend around the time she was ten years old. Her name was Janice and Mom describes her as “a nondescript sort of person.” What stood out to her about Janice was the way her family “lived with a high degree of order.” She said, “It was zen like to be with her. Our friendship was a refuge. We didn’t confide in each other, but it felt safe, orderly, quiet, and clean to be in her space with her family.” It may not surprise you to know that my Mom’s childhood home was the opposite of that. And so when I asked her what it would be like if she could return to childhood for a day, she said that she would need two days. On one day she would encounter pain, because that was a reality for her as a kid. And on the second day she would experience freedom, curiosity, and adventure.

More to come…

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Mom and Sally on Mom’s 70th Birthday

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