I have a very specific memory of Dionne Warwick’s song That’s What Friends Are For.
I was eleven. As usual, my mom picked me up from dance class and took me to my older brother’s swim practice. I took off my tights, grabbed a kick board and got in the water wearing my leotard. The sky was that lovely color that happens just after twilight, reminiscent of The Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World.
The air was soft and warm and felt like velvet, the water was soft and cool and felt refreshing on my sore muscles. My mom was nearby reading a book, my brother was practicing his sprints in the next lane with about 100 other kids, and I was cruising with my kick board. Just when I thought the moment couldn’t get any better, the coach played the radio over the loud speakers and That’s What Friends Are For came on.
I have no idea why I remember this. Maybe because the feeling of the song perfectly matched the feeling of that evening. It just seemed like Stevie Wonder needed to be there in that moment with me and his harmonica.
I am surprised at how much I have drawn on this memory throughout my life.
The most recent time was yesterday after my swim. My swimming buddy had a rough swim the other day. I knew she was hurting and probably would not make it back to the pool for a couple days.
After I got out of the water (shaking, but not snapping my fingers), I sat on the deck chair and thought about my upcoming trip to New York (I am dreading it). I thought about my friend and realized that it would be a full week before I saw her again. I felt curiously sad. I realized how much I genuinely like her and will miss her. This will be the longest that we’ve gone without seeing each other since September. She has gone from being “just my swimming buddy” to being a dear friend.
And, in the middle of my lamenting not wanting to go to New York and missing my friend, I heard a yell from behind me. “JENN!!” Scared me to death. I turned around, and on the other side of the chain link fence was my friend.
I couldn’t believe it. I hopped over to her. She said she was on her way to teach. She knew I would still be there and wanted to stop by to wish me luck in New York and apologize for not swimming. Apologize? I thanked her (so much!) for coming to see me. I told her I was just thinking about how much I will miss her and how I plan to swim at the YMCA in The City. We talked for several minutes and she was on her way.
Afterward, tears welled up in my goggle marked eyes behind my sunglasses. I was just so damn touched that she would drive to the YMCA, park, climb up a grassy hill, and yell through a chain link fence. Just to say hi to me.
It is easy to feel alone and overwhelmed and scared and like all of this is just too much to bear. But, that’s what friends are for.