The true beauty of friendship

Friendship is like a secret hide-out; the kind of place I imagined as a child to escape to from nightmares, to run away from disappointment–a place where I was completely perfect with all my flaws, some of them more noticeable than others.
My height was a flaw when I was young. I was short–the shortest in my class with the other Wendy, Wendy Cross. We were positioned on the ends of the first row for school class pictures year after year, as if we were place-holders to keep the row from toppling over or running off.
Every second year, Rita Sieders took a turn at the end of the row being a year younger and another member of the short team. Ruth Gerber usually was in the middle, always tall; taller than me though that was no particular challenge I realize.
Despite my vertical challenge, I had large hands that seemed a bit strange to me. They did serve me reasonably well in the piano-playing department but I found them grotesque at times.
I’ve learned that height and hand size have little consequence in the grand scheme of things. For instance, one always can use a chair for the hard-to-reach stuff while my large hands came in handy on many occasions.
And I didn’t like potatoes: mashed potatoes, to be exact. That seemed a flaw in our house. Who doesn’t like mashed potatoes? And the answer I gave put me at a table by myself, where I would or could learn to be grateful for potatoes, mashed or otherwise.
I have other flaws but who has the time?
My imaginary secret hide-out had an entrance obscured to the naked eye and only I knew where it was; only I could place my hand on the mighty oak’s trunk, my skin fitting into the space creating a perfect match and I was swept away like a leaf on the wind to land inside my fort, my hide-out, and my body breathed a sigh of relief. I was safe.
My imaginary fort had several exits, a bit like the imagination of the book “Watership Down” written by Richard Adams in 1972, if memory serves correct, plus a huge window with one-way glass, where I could see out but no one could see in.
That’s what children do. We create safety for ourselves, and we know whom we can trust; whom we can bring along to our secret hide-out, metaphorical or pretend.
I didn’t have a secret hide-out in the woods, but Ruth and I were going to build one when we were eight. We had big plans to run away. I was going to bring my pony and my dog.
It was winter and yet I packed summer clothes that Saturday morning we had planned our exodus. I had serious intentions.
As we age and abandon the notion of secret imaginary hide-outs, friendship continues to be our safe place when escape is necessary, where we can crumble and rage and feel the injustice of life, knowing our friend will stand guard; the kind of friendship that comes without judgment and rules, where we can be our authentic selves.
Friendship of that sort is the very beauty of being alive.

Wendi with an ‘eye’ logo