Tag Archives: friends

our gang: part 2

our gang part 2 - Best Advice So Far

In May, I wrote a post called “our gang,” which turned out to be one of the most read, shared and discussed posts in my more than four years of blogging. This Thursday having been Thanksgiving, I got to hang with “our gang” again; and it prompted some cool new thoughts.

I often say (and, in fact, mentioned in the original post in May) that holidays with “our gang” are as close to walking into a Norman Rockwell painting as anyone could hope to get. Traditions run deep with us. The Thanksgiving meal has included the same items made the same way, for the twenty-two years I’ve been part of the celebration; but those recipes actually go back a century or more, not merely decades.

Since my addition to the mix in 1994, I’ve taken on two very important traditions at holiday meals: rubbing garlic on the toast (two pieces) and tearing it by hand to make the croutons for the salad; and lighting the many candles as the last of the afternoon light fades.

(Side Note: The right lighting is very important in life.)

(Side Note to the Side Note: My mouth literally just watered at the thought of having a turkey sandwich made with mashed potatoes and that gravy, on one of Holly’s rolls!)

But mood lighting, special traditions and phenomenal food made from recipes handed down through generations are not the main reasons for the enveloping feeling of having walked through the looking glass. No, it’s the people. And as I thought about it throughout the day Thursday and continuing through to today, I caught a glimpse of something that really shouldn’t have surprised me, but surprise me it did all the same. It occurred to me that the magic really comes down to one thing: choice.

Today, I want to share with you just a few of the choices that our gang makes consistently with regard to one another – choices that have resulted in the best darned friendships someone could ever hope to have:

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our gang

cast of

Today’s post is a tribute to some of my very favorite people in the world. But it’s a tribute with a point and a challenge for us all.

In my writings, I talk a lot about the many interesting and cool people I meet day to day by taking positive social risks. Today, I want to tell you about a different group of people – an inner circle of friends that make for a pretty wonderful life.

Our little gang centers around two sisters, Holly and Dib. Their real names are Charlotte and Olivia, which adds to the atmosphere somehow, because they are truly classy, classic and traditional while at the same time being entirely down-to-earth, modern and cool.

Gatherings typically happen at one of their homes in Marshfield, Massachusetts. Holly’s home is right on the actual marsh of Marshfield – the house where she and Dib grew up. It holds a rich history of personal stories, with new ones emerging all the time, even after the decades some of us have spent together there. Dib’s home is near the sea wall, where you can hear the ocean and smell the salt in the air the moment you step outside. Everything from the lighting to the hand soap feels like a beach escape, yet without the slightest hint of pretentiousness.

Both are gardeners extraordinaire. You’ll never see such personal and beautiful spaces as their gardens; and while dropping in, it is likely you’ll be offered an artisan salad made with their own herbs and tomatoes in an array of colors.

But Holly and Dib aren’t the only members of our hodge-podge family, nor the only ones with interesting pet names. Spanky, Alfalfa and Froggy had nothing on our gang, which includes the likes of Fluffy, Tipster, Pinky and Richie Rich.

I’ve spent twenty holiday seasons with this group of friends. Though there have been additions along the way, it is difficult to imagine a time when we all weren’t there together.  The Christmas tree is always perfectly imperfect, and laden from stand to star with decorations spanning a hundred years: bubbling baubles and tiny trains that run their tracks on heat from the bulbs. Food is made from scratch with old family recipes, and we all clap when it is at last presented by our host, Holly, who is beaming and covered in flour. It’s as close to stepping into a Norman Rockwell painting as anyone will ever get.

It would be hard for me – even as a writer – to describe the feeling when we are all together.  On the surface, we couldn’t be more different. The age range spans 40 years. Some are single and some are married with kids. Some are tech geeks. Some are connoisseurs of cigars, wine and spirits.  Some get serious about Magic: The Gathering while others discuss Nietzsche. Some are boisterous and others as quiet and reflective as I imagine Abraham Lincoln to have been.

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déjà vu 2

déjà vu 2 merry-go-round horse

This month marks the one-year anniversary of a loss for me. I would like to share it with you.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I often include links in reference to past posts or to sites outside of my own that illustrate a point. But never, to my knowledge, have I link to another post that is “required reading” before the current post will be fully understood. Today, I’ll need to do exactly that. Please allow me this diversion from the norm for the sake of telling my story today; I believe that it will be worth the small amount of extra time invested.

That said, you’ll notice that this post is called “déjà vu 2.” As you may have guessed (or remembered), that is because nearly three years ago I wrote a post called “déjà vu.” Please click on the link to read (or re-read) that post before continuing. I’ve added another link to the bottom of the original post, so that you can get right back here in a jiffy when you’re done.

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Welcome back!

Now let me tell you about this not-so-fun anniversary I mentioned at the start of this post.

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déjà vu

Hello, friends.  It’s been a while. Rather than spend an undue amount of time explaining my absence, I’ll just enjoy the moment of presence and do what I came to do – write.

First, a brief commercial break. I will have you know that I passed the first lemonade stand of the post-Memorial-Day season this weekend and practiced exactly what I preach.  Two boys, who I’m guessing were five and seven, were standing street side, holding a torn, brown, cardboard sign with thin, white writing on it – which of course no one could read from their cars.  The younger of the pair was calling out passionately to the drivers as they whizzed by (I know this not because I heard him, but only due to the fact that I saw his little mouth working exaggeratedly to form words).  He and his sign twisted at the waist with every passing car, as if forced to do so by their sheer velocity. No one was stopping.  It was a pitiful sight. Well, in addition to stopping and buying two cups of lemonade, I offered some sound marketing advice, as well: using white poster board instead of the brown cardboard, writing with thick black marker instead of white crayon, and exchanging the screaming for smiling REAL BIG and with teeth (which, as it turned out, were not so many at the moment). They were very grateful, and before running indoors to hunt for the suggested supplies, the older boy offered me a quarter of my money back “for the good advice” (which, of course, I let him keep after complimenting his outstanding manners). For Pete’s sake, don’t be a whiz-by-er.  Make a kid’s day.  Stop and buy the lemonade!

We now return to our regularly-scheduled programming.

Let me tell you about my new friend Dave. I met Dave about six months ago.  We have a lot in common.  Graphics and computer skills.  Musical abilities.  Core beliefs.  Youth mentoring.

Dave looks like a younger version of Hugh Jackman.  I just thought I’d throw that in there.   We do not have this in common.  I do not look very much like Hugh Jackman.

But Dave also has quite a bit in common with some other people I have known.  People who haven’t been very nice to me, I’m afraid.  People who, if truth be told, have been downright mean to me.

Dave has the same hair color as someone who recently betrayed me. The rise and fall of his voice is uncannily similar to the same former friend.

Dave has the same career as someone who recently gossiped and spread lies about me.

Dave uses certain obscure phrases that I’ve only ever heard used by a couple of people in my life – people who have hurt me. Dave goes places those people go, and reads books those people have touted as good reads.

On the flip side, one of the first times Dave and I talked, he told me that I rather reminded him of someone, as well. Dave had heard me singing.  He figured out pretty quickly that I was outgoing and talked easily with people.  And these things reminded him of someone else who was outgoing and could sing well, someone he’d invested a lot of time into in recent years.  In the end, this person had broken Dave’s trust in irreparable ways and hurt people that Dave cared about.  In short, this person had made Dave’s life quite hard for quite a long time.

We both acknowledged, from the very first time we talked, that it was a temptation to avoid getting to know one another altogether. “This guy is too much like the last one who caused me so much pain.”  Engaging again with someone so similar in so many ways would just be asking for trouble — opening the door for the painful past to repeat itself. Wouldn’t it?

The truth is that Dave is a great guy and a welcome new friend.  I enjoy talking with him.  I feel excited about possibilities after we hang out.  He values my input and I value his.  We’ve started into writing a little music together, and he wasn’t afraid to sing in “girl voice” in front of me.  I like his sense of humor, and he gets mine.  We laugh a lot. I like Dave. I trust Dave.

Brace yourself for this next bit. Trust is a choice.

It’s hard to trust new people who are a lot (or even a little) like people who have betrayed our trust in the past.  So, yes, it’s a potentially difficult choice – but a choice nonetheless.

What’s more, basing all new relationships on bad past relationships is irrational, if we really stop and think about it.

Every chair does not give us splinters – even if that one did when we were nine.  Will we never sit again?

And that lobster red burn two summers later – the one that had us unable to sleep for days and cleaning skin peelings from our sheets for weeks – is hardly grounds to lock ourselves away in the cellar every time the sun comes up.

There’s a line in Anne of Green Gables, where Anne’s trusted mentor and friend, Ms. Stacy, has this to say: “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.”  And that is true of new relationships, as well.   Each one is fresh, with no mistakes in it.

So, if you are afraid, then go ahead and say so.  Decide together to do things differently.  Be different, if there are things in you that could use changing this time around.  But by all means, do choose to trust again.  For to choose otherwise – to live within a self-made fortress of skepticism and fear – is to rob ourselves of  the potential for future joy, as well.

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I want this to be a place where we can share our thoughts, our stories, the strategies each of us are finding work – or don’t work – when it comes to living like it matters. Not only will you encourage others by doing so, you will encourage yourself to remember what you already know and to live it out in practical ways.  So please comment below!


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