“The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.” — Elisabeth Foley
One year ago today, I quoted from a wonderful book written by my friend Ellis Anderson, whom I met at college nearly 40 years ago. Ellis and I were different in many ways, but we also had common threads that drew us together. In fact, there has always been a side of me that no one understood quite as well as she did. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I’m not sure I could have survived college without her. Of all my friends, she was the one who was always there even when it seemed no one else was.
In college, we had discussed song lyrics and literature, and Ellis let me read her amazingly well-written personal journals. And she would play her guitar for me often, singing my blues or grouchy moods away. I learned songs from her that I still sing to myself today. We had an obnoxious habit of speaking (admittedly limited) French to each other when we wanted to share a private joke in the company of others. And we went to New York City together, and exchanged stories of our extensive travels, both of us having fathers that worked for Eastern Air Lines.
Ellis and I ended up traveling in different directions, far and wide, never living close enough geographically to see each other, and always too busy with other obligations to make plans to get together somewhere. We’d always communicated through words and writing, though, and that continued through the years. She kept alive my connection to the person I was in my youth, even through all those demanding years of child-rearing and moving all over the country, stressful times that often made me feel as if the young woman I once was had vanished forever.
Last July, business brought her to DC. She was battling a nasty respiratory infection, but we knew we would simply HAVE to get together. We had not seen each other in person for over thirty-five years! Though she was terrified that she would infect one of us with the remnants of her infection (she didn’t), I was able to twist her arm a bit and have her and her lovely niece, Anna, spend one night with us before they headed south again.
It was almost like being back in the dorm together. It was as if we had never been apart. We talked, laughed, caught up on stories we had not shared yet, and she sang and played the guitar for me as she used to do. Most wonderful of all, she was able to meet Jeff and Matt, having heard about them and seen their photos for many years. After months of sorrow, fear and exhaustion, having her visit us was like a blindingly bright flash of joy.
Ellis and her husband Larry are moving to a location a bit closer to us, so I hope to be able to see her again much more often in the years to come. Whether or not I do, though, I know we will always be friends.
Are you thinking of a special friend as you read this? I wish for you an enduring connection to those steadfast and loyal people who believe in you and bring out your best, as Ellis always has for me. It’s sometimes hard to make the effort to stay in touch, but it’s an investment that pays rich dividends.
One year ago today