Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Slipper friends

I don't know how I got so lucky, but I have some amazing friends. It's not just that they listen well, that they don't judge me, that they're accepting ... they're all those things, but there's more to it than that. I'm blessed with more than my share of slipper friends.

Remember when you were in second, maybe third grade, and you went to school to meet your best friend every day? In all likelihood, she had a note for you, and you had one for her. If you didn't, well ... you were usually snarled at in some way. At that point in your lives, you and your friends needed constant connection, ceaseless reassurance to stay linked. Without the daily refresh of a note, a conversation, a secret shared, your friendship weakened, like an old cell phone battery that won't hold a charge anymore.

Slipper friends are different, though. No matter how much time has passed since the last time you spoke, slipper friends are comfortable -- warm and inviting. They open their arms and hearts to you, and you step in easily for a good hug, and settle in to catch up. There's never a hitch in the stride of a friendship like the one a slipper friend extends to you. That connection always fits, just like a pair of comfy slippers.

Sometimes you're lucky, and you find slipper friends among your family. I attended a cousin's wedding reception this past weekend, and found that while I remembered him being a slipper friend all my life, I was delighted to learn that his new bride shared the same approach to friendship -- a warm, complete and unreserved approach.

More often, though, you find slipper friends beyond the reaches of your genealogical tree. I grew up spending summers in my mother's hometown, playing with the kids who lived next door to where we stayed, and 25 or 30 years later, we each still look forward to our much-shortened but still heartwarming summer visits. We've even vowed to continue this tradition in spite of our marriages and eventual families -- a vow we've kept up devoutly.

I'll make another vow -- to be that kind of friend to others, the kind of friend I've been lucky to meet over and over again. I vow that if an old friend calls me, years after our last conversation, I won't be the one to say, "Why haven't you called?" or "What took you so long?" I'll be the one to say instead, "I've been thinking about you. It's been a long time and I'm so glad we got back in touch."