Stars, hidden and otherwise

“Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them but you know they are there.” I wish I was quoting from some great and wise book, but the truth is, I saw this sentiment in a greeting-card shop in Port Authority bus terminal in NYC. But I was touched by it. When I’m deep into writing, I huddle into a kind of a cocoon, unaware of anything or anybody—and the sky above is empty and dark. I never feel so alone as when I am writing, even if I am vaguely aware of my readers, my prospective audience. So I am especially grateful for my sometimes hidden stars. This past weekend was a triple-header for me: On Sunday, I got to see my youngest brother, Chris, who is my family champion. He is the one who goes out and actually buys my books, actually reads them, and will discuss them with me later. He will sometimes share them with his own students—he’s a history and English teacher. Then Monday, dinner with my other mainstay, my steadfast supporter and reader Diane, who I’ve known forever, whose opinion and feedback I’ve come to value immensely. And on Tuesday, a long-awaited reunion with another coming-of-age friend—no, not the fellow I mentioned a few blogs back, but a girl—a woman—who was my first friend at college, my roommate, my most enduring friend (I won’t say oldest!) Our friendship has stretched over four decades, but each time I see Claire, it’s like we’re dropping back into a long, cozy conversation that we’ve never left. And I’m grateful to her for reminding me of my own long-standing commitment to being a writer. “You’ve always been all in!” she reminded me, very forcefully, also reminding me of the day we met—

It was, I think, my second day at college—that strange little Catholic college ten hours from home, in the middle of nowhere. I was filled with doubt and terror, thinking I was supposed to be somewhere else, Boston maybe, or the state university at Storrs, Connecticut (which actually did have me registered as an incoming freshman) For solace, I turned to my journal, and was lost in my confused thoughts, when this dark haired girl walked into my room—I had left the door open, feeling somewhat claustrophobic. Claire told me later that she had been drawn in by the sight of me writing so intensely. She introduced herself as a poet, and I was instantly entranced. And we’ve been friends ever since, seeing each other through any number of crises and dark nights, joys and sorrows. We used to try and imagine ourselves as older women, even as old women. And now here we are, on the cusp of that part of our lives, still together and ready to plunge in, determined it will all be as rich and eventful and meaningful as our younger lives were.

Claire gave me a little gift, a paperweight engraved with this saying, attributed to Ben Franklin: “Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing…” I’ve been trying to do both all my life, so it’s not time to stop now. Thank you, to all my stars and supporters, not just the ones I’ve mentioned here. I’ll try to remember you all, when the nights seem darkest.

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