If you were a Girl Scout then you might remember the ol’ song we sang around the ol’ campfire called Make New Friends. Part of it went like this…”Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the others gold.” We sang those words in Brownies and Girl Scouts and yet I had no idea what they meant. I hadn’t lived long enough to gather that many friends, but over time I’ve learned to appreciate those sage words.
Growing up, I had two childhood friends that came into my life at a very early age. Like as babies. Carol Ann and Denise. We were thrown together because we were all born the same year, our moms were dear friends, and they were probably in the same church circle. By the word circle, I don’t mean that they hung out in the same groups, but back in the day they actually had bible study groups for women called “circles.” Sounds a bit like a clique to me, but circles were what small groups are today and were identified by women in the Bible. Like the Naomi circle…or the Ruth circle.
Here is Carol Ann and I at age 2…
I’m the one on the right with the toy…probably not sharing very well. Carol Ann is patiently waiting for her turn. She was always so kind. Look at those toe-head blonde curls, and the cool vintage lamp shade in the background.
As we grew up Denise, Carol Ann and I went to each other’s birthday parties, spent time at each others homes, and were besties. We played, danced, took imaginary journeys, and laughed together through the years. Here is a picture of my 5th birthday party with all of us and some others…
They were apparently using color film by this time. I am the 2nd from the left, and my knees hadn’t yet blossomed. Carol Ann is next to me on the left and has the red balloon up to her face. Denise is the last one on the right dancing with her hair pulled back.
Denise and I were Girl Scouts together. As I look back and try to remember those days together the thing that stands out is the time we were about to pull away from the curb on our way to a scouting campout. My mom was driving, I was in the middle next to her, and Denise was sitting next to me by the window. We must have been about 10 years old. Denise suddenly says, “hang on”…proceeds to open the passenger door and puke into the gutter, slams the door and says “OK…let’s go!” She also always seemed to be nervous.
With time, unfortunately, we all grew apart. Carol Ann moved away, and Denise went to another Jr. high. In high school Carol Ann moved back, but went to our arch-rival high school so we certainly couldn’t hang out, could we? Denise and I went to the same high school, but because I had made new friends and ran in different circles (this time it was more of a click) I didn’t really know how to juggle old and new friendships. Or maybe I was just busy. Or maybe I was just a snob and couldn’t hear those Girl Scout lyrics ring in my ears. Denise and I connected here and there, and being in the same youth group at church we were able to water our friendship a little bit. Interesting, isn’t it, that we were learning about faith and how to love, and yet I’m sure I wasn’t all that inclusive towards her.
After a few years, we all went off to different colleges. I was off to Cal Poly SLO, Carol Ann to Oregon State, and Denise to Cal State Long Beach. We met men, married, and moved away from our home town. We had children, raised them, and sent them out into the world. We buried our parents. We fought battles and demons of our own that made us stronger women, and now and then wondered how the other two were doing in life. Now we’re all empty-nesters with sagging skin, a little wider than before, and with a Facebook page.
I reconnected with Denise on Facebook a few years ago, and was able to learn some amazing things about her. She had become a University Art Professor, and was a very successful artist. Check out her work at www.deniseweyrich.com. I also learned that she was diagnosed with Type I diabetes as she was giving birth to her son, which was quite a scare. Now the puking in the gutter and nervousness made sense – she was never sure what would happen when she ate something.
Over the years we searched for Carol Ann, but weren’t able to track her down. I set off on my journey of discovering grace and wanting to blog about my discoveries. Then Denise successfully battled Stage 4 Ovarian cancer a year ago – it’s considered a miracle that she is alive. She gives God the glory and is so grateful that he was gracious enough to gift her with more life. After going through that, she reached out to me and wanted to see me. We tried several times, but nothing worked out. Finally, Denise and her husband planned a trip to Oregon, and would be traveling through Sacramento soon and we would finally see on another for the first time in about 40 years. We also decided that after all these years, all three of us needed to physically get together for a weekend and share what God had been teaching us over the past 40 years. But we couldn’t proceed with our plan until we tracked Carol Ann down.
I decided to put my private investigator hat on, and with some details provided by Denise, Ancestry.com and the internet I was able to find out that Carol Ann’s married last name had changed. She had remarried, and voila!…I found her Facebook page that way. What joy! I messaged her, but she didn’t respond after a week so I messaged one of her daughters who passed the message on to her, and she emailed me back. Woo hoo! I learned that she had been a teacher all her life, so we had something in common. We are all so thrilled to connect again. Both Denise and I have had phone conversations with Carol Ann, and we plan to try to all get together.
A week ago, Denise and her husband stayed with us for a night on their way north. It was SO much fun reconnecting! I regret the time lost that I might have been a support to her. I regret my inability to show her Jesus when we were young. I regret that it took her almost dying to bring us back together. I regret my selfishness. But I am so grateful, once again, for grace.
The best part is that the three of us Skyp’d while Denise was here, and she and her husband are going to have dinner with Carol Ann soon while up in Northern Oregon. I, too, may see Carol Ann when she is down this way for a family reunion next month, but we still have not had the opportunity to all sit in the same room together and drink a little wine and just talk about the amazing things that God has done for us. And to remember that making new friends is wonderful…but never to forget the old childhood friends. These gals are GOLD in my book!
The grace I find in this story is that the Creator has allowed each of us to learn hard lessons about life and friendship, find great joy, experience great pain, and yet be able to survive and return back together to testify to one another of God’s faithfulness throughout the years. What a privilege – not everyone has that opportunity. That is grace served on a silver platter. Or maybe it should be gold. BaHaaa. I’m quite sure that our sweet moms are up in Heaven at a meeting of the Naomi circle, drinking punch and gleefully happy that God brought the three blondies back together.
Stay tuned! We are hoping that to all get together in the Fall, at which time I will give you part 2 of Girl Scout Wisdom. Sigh. Once again…isn’t God gracious? G-R-A-C-(E)-ious!