Recently I stayed overnight with a dear friend of mine. In fact, the oldest friend I have (which, incidentally, since I seem to be losing friends left and right recently is a pretty big deal).
When I left in the morning, I was in a rush, partly because of my chronic poor time management, but mostly because we had lingered over cups of tea and coffee and clothes to swap, and I realized on my way home that I hadn’t made my bed nor stripped the sheets in my rush to leave. Back in the day when my friend was childless, I wouldn’t have thought too much about it, knowing she would tell me to leave them anyway, but now that she is a mom with a toddler and a baby and a part-time job, it seems more of an offense to leave yet another task for her to take care of.
Instinctively, I reached for my phone to send an apologetic text for the houseguest-transgression. As I thought of how I would compose it, I realized with a satisfying weight that no message needed to be sent. It was the weight of knowing that the friend, who knows me so well and loves me so dearly, would not care that I didn’t make my bed. She would not think of me or my used sheets as a burden: she would actually rather spend 5 more minutes with me than have the task done.
The realization got me reflecting on the value of this friend. And made me quite tearful. She loves me in a way that she doesn’t count and hold small things against me or for me. Our friendship lives in broad strokes. We have been in and at one another’s weddings (2 of mine), we spent countless teen hours together, I was at the birth of her second child, and I know that I could call her at 2:00am if I needed (and I know that her phone will be nowhere within hearing distance and she probably will not answer).
It is such a simple thing, this unmade bed I left, and yet the weight and significance is so so precious: to have a friend who loves you so unconditionally and who knows you would never do harm (and who will tell you when you have). She is the kind of friend who can be truly glad when the thrift store shirt doesn’t fit her but does fit you. The kind who will always be on your side even if it means quietly telling you that your side is wrong.
Over the years, there have certainly been transgressions between us, like the time as teenagers when I cancelled a visit to her for the sake of a boy. He eventually ended up dating my sister but he was the first boy I ever slept in a bed with, where I learned of both the intoxicating pleasure of being spooned and the awkward restlessness of being in bed with a foreign body. But she of all people understood the power of a crush.
Or the time 10 years later when she was coming for an overnight visit and I ended up getting drunk the night before and I couldn’t stop throwing up and had to send her home. Even though she had said to me the night before, “Don’t be hung-over for tomorrow!” She was incredibly hurt and forgave me at the same time, and I learned how very scared I was to share about my life at that point (newly separated, first time single in a decade, figuring out who I was without a significant other as a prop for life): scared enough to drink my way out of it. We talked this one out months later, sitting on a bed much like we did as teenagers, although this bed happened to be a display bed in the back corner of an Anthropologie store. Clearly the staff understood the importance of the exchange because no one dared disturb us for the 75 minutes we held the bed hostage.
And when I found out about the birth of her first child via Facebook, that one took a little extra oomph to get over. But how do you hold a grudge against someone who just went through 40+ hours of labor? I took this one as a chance to reflect where we were in our friendship, and realized we hadn’t been keeping up properly. I could have chastised her or myself for this, but instead, I reevaluated. She was definitely someone I wanted for keeps. So when she did call me (several days after the baby was born), the only things out of my mouth were positive, things like, “congratulations” and “happy” and “love.” And they were all true.
It is so easy to be caught up on our own lives, our own hurt, that sometimes we forget the value of a true friend, forget the value of allowing someone to be human, to know they are going to mess up from time to time, despite the best intentions. And often, the times we behave badly is when our chips are down. And what kind of friend kicks you in the chips?
Not her. And I am so grateful.