Friday, February 02, 2007

Friends, part 5

Part five of a series exploring crucial friendships. Continued from prior posts. In the first four posts of this series, I discussed a few, very important friends. The "best friends" of my life, so far. Intentionally, I've not discussed family, nor have I discussed my husband, though those relationships are by far the most important, especially on a daily basis.

There are friends, though, who aren't our "best" friends. They remain a little farther away. Friends from church, neighbors, parents of children's friends, the list gets longer every year. A few of those people may move to the inner circle, but many of them stay on the list of "people I like" and even "people I can call in an emergency" but not the very short list of "people who know every detail of my life." These people would cry at my funeral but would not deliver the eulogy.

That outer circle of friends is crucial. We need them. We especially need them when the "inner circle" is not well-populated. So let's travel to 2002, just to recap. My best friend since high school moved away in spring 2001. My best mommy friend since my firstborn was an infant moved away in spring 2002. My friend and yoga teacher died in November 2002. My husband's best friend and his wife also moved away, as did the two women I became friends with in graduate school. My inner circle? Was not in the state.

Cue the violins.

This was an unacceptable situation. Period. I'm a social girl, and my needs were not being met. I had not really bonded with anyone at church, my neighbors at the time were not good "best friend" candidates, and I didn't have friends at work. What to do? How to meet people?

My approach was two-pronged. Get a hobby, and get more involved at church. Make sure the hobby is one that involves other people. I joined the Memphis Vocal Arts Ensemble. Surely, surely, there would be someone there that I would like, that would like me.

A man from my church choir, Jack, is the person who suggested I check out MVAE. Bless Jack's heart, after rehearsal he even invited me to join a group of ensemble members who went to a nearby restaurant to drink a few beers and socialize. As, well, almost anyone who knows me can tell you, I'm generally unlikely to turn down drinks, especially when I'm trying to make friends. A quick phone call home, to let Craig know what was going on, and I was soon basking in the warm glow of the Belmont crew.

Like I mentioned before, I did get permission from my current friends before I started blogging about them. Well, these folks are performers, so anonymity is not an issue. So I'm using names. Full names. With links to bios. Head shots, even. Because performers? Like to get more than one or two hits when they google themselves.

The Belmont crew usually consists of about six of us. Stephen Len White, whose voice is like butter, and his lovely wife, Deb, who claims to be our "groupie", Stephony Robinson, who is a gentle, lovely woman who also can throw back a shot of tequila and tells an awesomely funny story, Jimmy White, Dr. Nancy Chase, who will get out her bagpipes anytime, anywhere, if she hears someone has a birthday, our director, Tom Machen, and sometimes Jack, and sometimes our pianist, Lisa, and me. It's a fun group, and sometimes we even get together outside the bounds of MVAE. When Deb and Steve got married, we were all there. Stephony had a birthday party in June that was attended almost entirely by the Belmont crew, and most of the crew attended my blowout birthday party in May.***

That birthday party was the best party ever. It was legendary. About fifty people were there (and my house is not big) and everyone had someone to talk to. (And with Craig's brilliant compilation CD's and the fabulous food and drinks, everyone was having a great time.) Most of the important people in my life come from one of two places: MVAE or my church. But those lines are sometimes blurry, like in Jack's case. He occupies both of those spheres.

My church friends were slow in coming. I've been attending Neshoba since 2000 (I joined in February of that year), but it wasn't until about 2002 or 2003 that I really felt "at home". In 2004 the small group ministry really got going, and a group for young adults finally found wings. I'm at the upward end of the age range, but our group is cohesive and supportive and functions very well. After 18 months together, we opened to other ages, and several other folks who are over 40 joined us, but the dynamic still feels young and vibrant. Melissa, James, Liz, Jason, and Dave (and Stina and Margrethe) are the people I sit with in church, have lunch with after church, and they represent the new leaders of our church. (And, for the first time in our church's history, more than half our board members are under 40.)

Having a child involved in the church-sponsored Girl Scout Troop has also given me opportunities to form stronger relationships with other parents. Dorothy, Tracy, Steve, Jennifer, Martin, and Gretchen are all busy, smart, effective adults who share their talents with the children of the church. For them, I am grateful.

The church choir is what got me to Memphis Vocal Arts Ensemble. And Chip is who got me to join the choir, which means I owe her a great debt. Chip is a fabulous 60, and she personifies what I want to be when I grow up: vibrant, visible, welcoming, active, vital, compassionate, enthusiastic. Most people half her age don't have half her energy. Paul, Alex, Jack, Tricia, Elizabeth, Cathy, Carrie, and Ross bring camaraderie and music to my Sunday mornings.

And once we get to the board, there's so much overlap that I realize the fabric at church is more woven than patchwork. So many of my fellow board members are found in other places in the church: in small group ministries, in the Sunday School classrooms, in the choir.

One of my church friends also knows my neighbor, Anna, from when he lived in an apartment building and she worked for the management company. Anna and Paul live two doors away, and Paul was the first neighbor I met. Jenn and Maggie live behind us with an alleyway connecting our back yards. While my old neighborhood was a "front porch" neighborhood, this one is a back yard neighborhood. I have to remind myself that Jenn and Maggie technically live on a different street than Paul, Anna, and I.

When the weather is warm, our neighbors congregate in what we jokingly called "neighborhood watch." In truth, we're watching little, but we're creating community. We're making relationships. And studies have shown that strong bonds between neighbors help make safe neighborhoods. So maybe drinking a little wine together is fighting crime. We also have each other's email addresses and participate on an internet message board.

The bonds we're creating are strong: at Anna and Paul's wedding, the "neighborhood friends" took up two tables at the reception, and many of us drove to the wedding together. We've become a community.

These groups of friends represent the people who see me through the day-to-day. Our relationships are not all necessarily deep, but they have the comfort of familiarity, of shared experience.

***Though this was intended to be a five-part series, I'm realizing that we need another entry. There are a couple of people who are moving from this outer circle to the inner circle, and I'd like to explore those relationships a little more.


Paul said...

Is Nancy Chase a cardiologist?

Kaleigh said...

Yes, she sure is.