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The Stamp of Friendship

By Sherri L Dodd

Visiting one of my favorite scrapbook stores, I came across a thought-provoking encounter. Upon checkout, I mentioned to the cashier that I had driven an hour to her store because I really liked the extensive selection of papers and embellishments. In turn, she inquired where I lived. Upon hearing the answer, she quipped that she had a friend in the area who lead an exercise group. Since I know a few fitness people in the area, I asked her the person's name to which she began quite a struggle, for several minutes, to remember the name of her "friend". The first name came after a couple minutes, but the last name was never confirmed. It wasn't because this friend had just married or because it was a last name that was difficult to pronounce. It was simply that she just could not remember the person's last name.

Now, I ask you if you see anything wrong with this picture. When you think of one of your friends, does their name escape you? Or does their first and last name come with no struggle? Is it common that people so arbitrarily throw around the title of "friend or has the word simply taken on a new meaning such as that of "acquaintance or "person I occasionally small talk with in social situations"?

When we were young our lives were flowing with friends. When an argument ensued with the best buddy, there were plenty of backup pals who were more than willing to lend an ear, add an insult in the direction of your perpetrator and gather reinforcement troops in plenty of time to catch a matinee and hang out well into the night. When you finally did forgive your best buddy (or they forgave you), your back up friends would be slightly irritated as your presence slowly faded, but come the next blow-up with bestfriend, their attitudes were still glorious at your jubilant return. Eventually, a boyfriend appeared, knocking best buddy to second place and back-up friends became last resort. Everyone knew their places and was just as happy to see you when you managed to find the time.

Then marriage entered the picture and the friendship rings were put to their first test. Marriage was incredibly different from boyfriend status and certain friends would drop off the roster never to be heard from again"I know this to be especially true for the male gender. And the ultimate strain of friendship succumbed on the 3rd floor of your local hospital"the delivery room. Whether a friend was not yet ready to have a family with her spouse or she still enjoyed the freedom of Saturday night partying, hanging out in the presence of a seemingly fragile and very small alien was tolerable for a little less than an hour"good friend or not! Eventually, the casualness of your affairs would soon dissipate to occasional visits, if you were "lucky". And even I have to admit that though the sight my best friend's first baby brought tears of happiness to my eyes, twenty minutes into our get-together, I was anticipating my departure. The crying, poopy diaper and plastic toy stuff was a little too foreign for me and a real kink in the times that used to be. Of course, I joined her in the circus of motherhood six years later and here we are today, twenty-eight years after meeting in high school, maintaining our well-earned label of "friend".

Along with friends fading along the way, you never quite make the same kind of friend when you are a family woman. In having less time for yourself, you are much less forgiving of pettiness or even differences of opinions everywhere from child-rearing to local government to the best character of Sesame Street, much unlike the days when you were single and childless. Vent-it-out sessions with misbehaving girlfriends are replaced with responsibilities such as smothering children with kisses, straightening up the house 10-15 times a day and patronizing with hubby after a hard day's work. So now you find yourself in the situation that not only have your old friends dwindled along the way, the efforts needed to replenish new friends are lower on your list of priorities.

It is for these reasons that I take the word "friend very seriously. When I say that someone is my friend, my definition is a little more solid. Number one, I will always remember their name - first, last, middle, children's name and sometimes even their myriad of pets. Number two, if someone qualifies as my friend, we have usually had our fair share of ups and downs, always to find a recovery point and purpose. Number three, they have proved staying power by keeping personal information that we share to themselves"because it always comes back! Finally, though they vent their money troubles, children's quirkiness and daily woes to me to the point of ad nauseum, I can count on the same respect and listening skills when my cup floweth over with sour milk.

Thinking back to the scrapbook store, I am sure that this nice woman was just making small talk. But in doing so, she reminded me of the importance of those gals in my life that I still claim as friends. It is a title that I give to a selected few people, for it means that person stands out in my hectic life as a source of laughter, trust and a confirmation that reaching out to them was not in vain.

About The Author
Sherri L Dodd is the creator and author of the newly-released book, Mom Looks Great - The Fitness Program for Moms. She is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer and Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant with over fifteen years of exercise experience. Aside from teaching kickboxing, she has lectured to groups on her fitness plan and is a freelance writer on the topics of fitness and general nutrition as well as the humorous side of motherhood.

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