Monday, September 29, 2014

Real Friends

Katherine, Annette & Elaine

“A real friend is someone who knows how totally crazy you are but is willing to be seen with you out in public,” read the travel mug advertised in a recent mail-order catalog. 
I’ve spent some time with such friends over the past few weeks. Some are fellow media colleagues, another went to high school with me. All of them put up with my quirks  and laugh at my silly jokes.
Many are members of the National Federation of Press Women, with whom I shared a tour bus, a zip line, a horse-and-buggy ride through old Charleston and some laughs over drinks and dinner. I get together with these remarkable women every year at our annual communications conference. It was in Greenville, SC, earlier this month. Next September, it will be in Alaska. Every year with these folks is like a big family reunion. But we keep our escapades to ourselves, trotting them out only to laugh about them as we recount conferences gone by.
My roommate at these events is Katherine K., of Oregon. We met at the 1995 NFPW conference in Mississippi, and we’ve roomed together every year that both of us have attended. I’ve missed a handful, but she hasn’t. Through the years, we’ve shared  stories about work, death, boyfriends and now, retirement. Like an old married couple, we’ve worked out a morning routine that includes her taking a shower first because I get ready quicker. She has always liked to turn on CNN as soon as she gets up, while I prefer silence that early. Our compromise has us waiting until I’ve had my first cup of coffee before turning on the telly. 
Katherine has visited me three or four times, usually coming home with me after a conference in the South. This year, her boyfriend, Mark, flew in after we returned from conference. She wanted him to experience my Shangri-La in the woods. I was excited that he was willing to work on my Honey-Do List. My high school chum, Annette, flew in from Chicago. This is the woman who attended Beach Boys concerts with me in the Sixties. She witnessed my humiliation over screaming when Mike Love reached down from the stage and touched my head while I was trying to snap a picture. Now that she is a widowed grandmother like me, we have even more in common.
All four of us spent a few days at Orange Beach, Alabama. We had a blast doing whatever we pleased. We collected shells on early-morning walks, took naps, ate some great seafood and tried a new drink called a Pineapple Mojito. And we never stopped talking. That’s how it is with old friends. We talk up a storm about anything and everything, and in the rare moments of silence, there is no awkwardness.  
And no matter what happens, we’re still happy to be seen in public with each other.