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'Ts The Season...To Celebrate Best Friends

With Christmas so close and Chanukah just beginning, (I have celebrated one, both, and, some years, neither), perhaps a little holiday ditty would be in order here today; but a Christmas card, a lunch date, and a text message all converging within the past week kept me focused on the topic I chose weeks ago: best friends. In my three novellas thus far, a third character is instrumental in helping my hero and heroine find love, and that’s what I planned to chat about today, the significance of those “best friends” in my stories. Then that Christmas card, that lunch date, and that text happened – and the significance of “best friends” in my imaginary worlds took a back seat to acknowledging the best friends in my real life.

My friendship with my Christmas card buddy has endured through thirty years. That’s scary in itself to me. Only my relationship with my ghost has survived longer – and John tells me he’s breathing, so he wins. Italian and Catholic, from a large, crazed family, John, once again, handed over an olive branch from our last virtual knock-down, f*ck you fight. He signed his card “to my best friend.” He’ll go to church, celebrate Mass – but, in his heart, I know he really considers himself a Druid. Through so many stupid disagreements, through all of the most significant moments of my life, this man has endured much hurt I inflicted, has inflicted some in kind – but he stood by me, through me embracing faith and through me feeling abandoned by it, always there to pull me up out of whatever gutter I chose to wallow in and push me back on a path of sorts when I fell on my ass. He doesn’t understand or particularly like my choices in love but accepts them as part of who I am, and I am fairly certain he routinely dances naked in the moonlight in some ancient ritual in an attempt to ensure my happiness.

My lunch date with a co-worker for the past ten years – I’ll call her Nancy – well, we shouldn’t be “friends” at all, in most people’s view, but we share a core set of values – fierce loyalty, a manic work ethic, a strong internal moral compass – and those shared values blossomed into the closest adult female friendship I have had the pleasure to count on. She’s a staunch Catholic; I am adrift. She hunts, with live ammo and in camo. I’m considering going vegetarian. She’s a little bit country and I…am so not. She can count patience and fortitude among her wonderful characteristics – but she puts up with my intolerance and impatience, helping me temper the intemperate, making me kinder than I often want to be. She makes me laugh at myself.

My text came from my 30-something Hindu military buddy. We’ve never physically met but “Sam” knows secrets no one else does –- because we never meet -– and respects me just the same. I still wonder at this unexpected gift. He shows me faith of another sort; keeps up with the all-nighters texting when the chronic insomniac, once again, can’t sleep; and teaches me how to say stuff like, “Turn off the microwave before the Peeps explode” in Nepali. He wants me to write a sex scene that involves a man and woman without any whips or handcuffs and he thinks it’s funny that the straightest sex I’ve written is a gay couple.

Yes, there is usually a third person – a best friend of some sort whose clothes stay on – moving the plot along in my stories. They are significant: the stories would be so thin, so lifeless, so two-dimensional without them.

Get my drift?

Whatever holiday you celebrate – or don’t – I do wish for everyone this traditional holiday season a buddy -- or two – maybe three! – who, through the sometimes inexplicable magic of friendship, takes those flat days we all experience and fills them full with the kind of gifts money can’t buy.

That’s what I’m celebrating this season.



Kathryn Merkel said...

Congrats Maria-Claire on the very special friends you mentioned in your post. I feel so sorry for the people who don't have a friend like you described. How lonely & pointless their lives must be. My best friend & I have been in each others lives for going on 30 years. My how the time flys. We've weathered many a storm together. When she was in the process of divorcing her first husband, I welcomed her & her two young sons, aged 2 & 4 into my home. They stayed 9 months & although things got a little strained there in the last few weeks we were sharing my 2 bedroom house, it wsn't long before we got past that rough patch & our friendship is stronger than ever. She is the sister of my heart and I would be lost without her in my life.

drainbamaged.gyzmo at

Maria-Claire Payne said...

Hi, Kathryn! Thank you for the kind words. The fact that these people share my life is one of the few successes I've managed that actually matter. I consider myself very, very fortunate to have my day enriched by such a cool cross-section of people. Your friend is very lucky to have you, too. Here's the best of the holiday season: best friends!


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