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Toasting Rye Bread
"A constant friend is a thing rare and hard to find."
I have heard that memory is 80 percent smell. I don't know if that is a verifiable percentage, but every time I put a piece of rye bread in the toaster, I think of Laurie.
I was twelve years old when I discovered that toast didn't have to be made from white bread. I was sleeping over at my best friend Laurie's house when I first smelled the sharp, singed-caraway aroma of rye toast. I was astonished and laughed at her outrageousness: She was toasting rye bread. Then she made me taste it, and I was hooked. This morning, munching on my rye toast, I realized that this was only one small way my best friend had broadened my horizons and that that's one of the things best friends do best.
Aristotle's definition of friendship is the image of one soul dwelling in two bodies. Certainly, that was Laurie and me. Our friendship existed in the pre-menstruation, pre-boyfriends, pre-rebellion pocket of childhood. We were on the verge of everything. Our relationship turned out to be excellent preparation for marriage. It was as consuming as monogamy. We spent every free moment together. We were in the same class. We demanded to know each other's innermost thoughts. We finished each other's sentences. We had the same passions. We argued vehemently, and just as vehemently stuck together. We had little room in our hearts for other acquaintances who didn't know our codes.
Our friendship began when we were the only two new kids in the third grade of a closely knit Catholic school. We sat together in the lunchroom, eight-year-old victims of ostracism, and our segregation soon turned to camaraderie. We were inseparable for five years, until my parents unfeelingly decided to move. Our friendship has lasted through subsequent moves, soul searches, college degrees, fads and grown-up adventures.
For many years, our actual communication has been sporadic. Laurie wrote when her father died, instinctively reaching out. I sent her a wedding invitation and an announcement for each new baby; she answered about every five years. Her return address has always been a surprise, leading to the many cross-outs that eclectic friends make in an address book. Laurie has been a poet, a reporter, an artist in Mexico, a forest ranger in remote areas. She used to criticize my dreams of romance as too mundane. "I know you want a white picket fence," she would chide me. I often felt like a potted geranium in a window box next to her rambling wild rose. But I also always knew she loved me for who I was.
I have thought of her more and more over the years, although our contact has grown less frequent. I now watch my four daughters grow and blossom into their own kinds of flowers, and I remember Laurie. I hear them coordinating outfits, hashing it out about other girls, angling for more time together, picking apart their appearance, their goals, their plans, their parents, each other—attempting to distill their own exact essences, just as Laurie and I once did.
Sometimes I think I am not really old enough to be on the other side of all this. I tell my girls we had no VCRs, that we had to go to the theater to see a movie, and they ask facetiously, "Did you have electricity?"
Yet my sometimes cloudy, sometimes lovely, sometimes fierce memories of childhood are really all I have to draw on as I try to raise my daughters to be kind, honest and full of heart. All the parenting books on my shelf cannot evoke the tug of a best friend "breaking up" with you or the delight of the intimacy of a day at the lake that you wish would never end.
Best friends beckon us to come out from the shadow of our moms and dads. They show us we have separate lives. They offer us affection solely for who we are, surprise us with the scope of another's existence, and teach us it's okay for toast not to be white bread.
My most recent letter from Laurie said that she'd left the Forest Service, gained a husband and was living in Portland, Oregon, in a cedar house they called their "urban cabin." Last summer, we met for the first time in twenty-two years. In the area to visit relatives, our family went to their cabin for dinner. We introduced husbands and children, and reintroduced ourselves. We talked and laughed and caught up on the years that seemed to have flown by. As I described the insight our childhood friendship had afforded me into the lives of my daughters, I realized they gained something from us now as they watched twenty-two years - twice their lives or more - melt away. Two old friends embraced, shared photos, got to know husbands and children. My girls saw firsthand the living truth of Anne of Green Gables "kindred spirits" and glimpsed their mother as a girl.
To my daughters, Laurie and I are old. They barely see the point of being almost forty. But someday, all this may filter back through their memories, perhaps as they raise daughters who have best friends and recall their own childhood best friends.
My head is full of cycles; my heart is full of love for every turn.
1 The True Meaning of Friendship
Toasting Rye Bread Valerie Schultz 2
Nancy and Caroline Sally Friedman 6
I Found My Best Friend After Forty Years Marjorie Conder 9
The Friends Who Saved Me Jill Goldstein 13
Bosom Buddies Alice Collins 18
The Swing Teresa Cleary 21
Power of Love Heather Black 25
The Wonders of Tupperware Carol Bryant 31
Everybody Needs Someone Helen Steiner Rice 34
The Tablecloth Bohne G. Silber 35
I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up! Phyllis W. Zeno 38
May Basket Sue Dunigan 42
Change of Heart Jane Milburn 44
2 Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
Operation: Heart Attack Wendy Simmerman 50
Birthday Presents Marguerite Murer 54
That's What Friends Are For Phyllis W. Zeno 57
In Praise of Best Girlfriends Stephanie Brush 61
To Pee or Not to Pee Marcia Byalick 64
Half the Fun Is Getting There Janet Lynn Mitchell 67
Christine's Comfort Shower Deborah Ritz 69
A Good Connection Anne Merle 73
Opening Doors Janna Graber 78
3 Being There for Each Other
Got Tea? PeggySue Wells 84
Details Lizanne Southgate 89
Famous Last Words Barbara LoMonaco 93
Knowing When Helen Colella 96
Wishing Away Lana Brookman 99
A Friend, Indeed Vivia M. Peterson 103
Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte Isabel Bearman Bucher 107
The Icing on the Cake Carol McAdoo Rehme 113
I'm Going to Buy a Paper Doll ... Carol J. Rhodes 116
Getting It Right Molly Noble Bull 119
4 Special Moments
The Starter Jar Debra Auyers Brown 124
Saying Good-Bye Sally Friedman 128
The Gift of Baby Drowsy Jodi L. Severson 131
Sunshine Sarah Wood 136
A Forever Friend Marlene King 138
A Perfect Pot of Tea Roberta Messner 141
Bacon and Eggs Beth Dieselberg 147
One More Task Marian Lewis 151
5 Unexpected Friends
A Friendly Act of Kindness Suzanne A. Baginskie 154
The Other Woman Sally Friedman 158
And a Little Child Shall Lead Them Audrey Conway 162
An Arm for a Friend Monika Szamko 166
The Nicest People I Never Met Nancy B. Gibbs 169
An Anonymous Rose Polly Moran 172
The Red Coat Melody Carlson 176
A Gift from Ute Wendi R. Morris 182
The Angels on the Cruise Shari Dowdall 186
6 Overcoming Obstacles
The Book of Friendship S. A. (Shae) Cooke 190
Big Problems, Little Miracles Patricia Lorenz 193
The Necklace Jenna Mitchell 196
Melts in Your Heart, Not in Your Hand Jennifer Stevens 198
My Best Friend Benita Baker 201
Good Morning, Sunshine Nancy B. Gibbs 205
The Love Squad Virelle Kidder 209
The Birthday Present Teresa Cleary 211
As Close as Sisters Heather Black 216
My Butterfly Friend Karen R. Kilby 221
7 Forever Friends
A Letter to Lois Beth Sherrow 226
A Friend for All Seasons Marylane Wade Koch 233
Lucky Charms Monika Szamko 237
Love Beyond Tears Phyllis Cochran 241
Letters in Cement Jennifer Nicholson 245
The Face of Hope Janet Hall Wigler 251
The Artist's Chair Harriet May Savitz 255
Cece and Agnes Mary Treacy O'Keefe 259
More Than Ever Harriet May Savitz 262
Who Is Jack Canfield? 265
Who Is Mark Victor Hansen? 266
Who Are Chrissy and Mark Donnelly? 267
Who Is Stefanie Adrian? 268
Posted September 18, 2012
Posted September 16, 2012
Posted March 10, 2005
My mom was the one who this book was dedicated to. I lost her to Cancer and im only in the seventh grade. I not only lost my mom but my best friend. This book helped me to cope, listening to other peoples stories.
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Posted February 11, 2013
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