Remember that song? I think we sang it when I was a Camp Fire Girl (yes…I was a Camp Fire GIRL before they went all politically correct and said it would just be Camp Fire and boys could join too).
Make new friends,
but keep the old,
one is silver
and the other gold.
Now , with the internet and the whoosh of social media hitting us from all directions, we have a whole new avenue for making and maintaining friendships. (For the record, I’m a admittedly addicted to Facebook and I toy very occasionally with Twitter, but that’s about the extent of my online presence, dedication, and attention span.)
Oh, and there’s the online dating. Thank the good lord that I have not had to do the Internet dating thing. I know I would doctor the bejeezus out of my profile pics and then panic at the reality of having to meet someone in person and explain why I didn’t actually have Christie Brinkley’s body from her Sports Illustrated cover days.
Anyhow, I have a really nifty extended circle of amazing friends, some I’ve never met in person, thanks to this now-clunky, aging Sony VAIO laptop. We may live hundreds of miles apart and we may rarely, if ever, meet for lunch, but they are friendships I value greatly.
One of my favorite online friends is Syl. Syl stands for Sylvia…not Sylvester. Let’s get that straight right off the bat.
Syl and I actually met about 3000 years ago (we’re aging quite well, thank you), in a pre-Facebook, early version of online chatting era. And really, the reason we met has absolutely nothing to do with technology at all.
It has everything to do with spotted dogs.
Syl and I both adore Dalmatians. We both hold true that like a Lay’s potato chip, you can’t have just one. And through the years some of my all-time favorite Dalmatian foster dogs have gone to live with Syl in her home state just to the right of mine.
This is the highest praise my dog-hair-addled brain (I think it seeps in through the ear canal. A brain scan would be entertaining) can offer to anyone. I was willing to send dogs that were “keepers” to live with my friend Syl.
“Willing” isn’t exactly accurate. I may have kind of somewhat stalked Syl. I recall very clearly when a gorgeous liver spotted Dalmatian that I named Mason came into rescue and into my home. Oh Mason. What a love. I fell for that dog hard and fast. He was in great danger of being one of those foster fails we joke about in rescue circles.
But with plenty of dogs of my own, and in my ongoing quest to dodge the slippery slope that is known as hoarding, I started plotting about getting someone special to adopt Mason.
To this day I compare it to fishing (for the record, I don’t actually fish…I think it’s rather mean to offer a free snack and have it turn into an involuntary piercing). I tossed a line out Syl’s direction–because truly, if I couldn’t keep Mason, I wanted him to have a home with Syl. I just had a feeling that he should, nay, would be her dog.
Now mind you, Syl was not looking for a dog. She had already adopted a darling dog named Annie. But I cast a line straight toward her anyway. You know…photos, “he’s so sweet” stories, more photos.
Syl nibbled the bait just as I hoped she would.
I set that hook hard and fast and before you could blink, Mason was headed to Arkansas to be her much-loved dog.
I’m wondering if Syl knows this side of the story. Well, she does now.
And then…maybe a couple of years later…Syl heard that ziiiiiing over the top of her head again and saw another yummy piece of bait land just in front of her. This time it was in the form of a black spotted sweetheart named Henry.
You know what? Syl bit again.
And then a couple of years later? Well, I didn’t have to troll for Syl this time. She saw a story about a Dalmatian that we had rescued from a puppy mill and she let shy, troubled Jillie come into her loving world. Jillie is still a bit shy, but no longer troubled. Syl has worked her magic on Jillie Bean.
Oh how I have loved sending my favorite foster dogs to Syl. I always know they have a great home and I know they can still be my family too…because I adore Syl like a sister.
Syl is that kind of person. You cannot help but love her. I dare you to try. You will fail.
She has the most delicious southern accent and when you talk to her, you hope she’ll want to tell you stories for hours. You don’t want to interrupt…you couldn’t possibly have anything to add that would make the story better than Syl’s version.
When Syl tells you a story, she paints a picture. She tells you side stories that, in her own words, “…really have nothing to do with this,” but it’s great, and you want more side stories.
Conversations with Syl are lively, colorful, and special, even if you’re not talking about anything special at all.
I love this woman.
So this year, Syl has been going through some STUFF. Now, we all have our stuff, don’t we? But right now, Syl has been struggling through STUFF. Honestly, it’s a package of stuff no one should have to deal with, especially dear, sweet Syl.
I’m trying very hard to be the right kind of friend through it all. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to support someone you truly care about when they’re dealing with STUFF. It’s particularly hard when there’s about 375 miles between you. It’s not as if I can drop by with a casserole.
I’ve decided that the best way for me to be there for Syl is to listen when she needs an ear, to talk when I think there are words that need to be said, to be available anytime she needs a long distance shoulder and/or hug, and to be her friend…just like I always have been.
You see, one thing I am learning from Syl right now is that you don’t let your STUFF define you. There was a lot to Syl pre-STUFF and there is a lot more to come from Syl post-STUFF. So while she is weathering her STUFF, I want to be the kind of friend she can talk to about anything…dogs, shoes, flowers, STUFF, what we each had for lunch, whatever.
Syl is NOT defined by STUFF.
Now here’s another very cool thing about Syl. She makes it really easy to be the right kind of friend. She is so open and so honest, truly a glorious example of a strong woman.
What she has taught me recently is that “strong” doesn’t mean you don’t need to cry. Strong doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to be mad, or sad, or happy, or fill-in-any-emotion-here.
Strong means being honest with yourself and the ones you hold dear. It means screaming at the top of your lungs if that’s what you need to do and then moving on from there, because that IS what you need to do.
Strong means facing fears and challenges and out-of-your-control change, and getting through it all with grace, determination, and a good dose of humor.
Strong means recognizing when you need someone to be strong for you…for just a bit…so you can curl up with the blankets over your head.
Strong means planting flowers and celebrating the hope of spring.
Strong means talking to your friend on the phone and somehow, despite all of your STUFF, hitting the end-call button and leaving your friend feeling better than she did before she said, “Hi Syl, what’s up?”
Yup. That’s a fact. She has that special mojo.
A conversation with Syl is like riding a merry-go-round that just might jump track and do a figure eight instead of sticking to the counter-clockwise circle route. It’s fun, it’s beautiful, it’s musical, you might cry, you will laugh, and you get off that ride feeling really, really good.
What a gift. I wish everyone could have a friend like Syl–the platinum kind. I can only hope that I AM a friend like Syl, to Syl.
(Love you, friend. This is what I thought to do for you. In the words of our mutual man crush, James Taylor, “…you’ve got a friend.”)