‘my friend ann’

by ‘her friend christie’

I have been blessed over the years to have gathered tribes of wonderful women friends. A few are from early grade school years, some when we attended Woodrow Wilson Junior High, others from MacArthur High School, several from my Millikin University days, and the rest I have assembled along the way from work, book clubs, and various organizations. I am grateful for their strength and passion and prayers (“Yes, Annelle, I pray!”). These women have propped me up when I’ve been at my lowest and stood along with me as I have stumbled into battles. We show up for one another, even when it is at its most painful.

My friend Ann is one of these women. I always refer to her as ‘my friend Ann’ to avoid confusion with ‘my sister Ann.’ I first met ‘my friend Ann’ during the second semester of my senior year in college. When I cast her in the one-act play I was directing for one of my final projects, I was thrilled she accepted the part. A real actress was going to be in my little old play! I was just a lowly speech education major with minors in English and theater. What did I really know about the world of theater? But her kind words of advice stayed with me, along with Doc Hopper’s (college theater professor) and Mr. Rueter’s (high school drama teacher), as I attempted to direct messy middle school and high school productions from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties. 

Years went by before I ran into Ann again. Our children went to the same magnet school and when we saw each other at a meeting, we both did that “I know you from somewhere” gesture. Her daughter and my youngest son became good friends during those years, but Ann and I were still just acquaintances, exchanging a few nods and words at show choir competitions and concerts.

Our friendship didn’t really begin until I joined a book club of intelligent, thoughtful, and hilarious women. Throughout the discussions, Ann and I discovered we had a lot of life journeys in common: divorce, the tough yet joyful single mom years, remarriage to our fabulous men, a deep love of literature, and our teaching careers. We began to meet for walks where we would talk about everything, from our families to the state of our nation and the world. Eventually, we brought our men together and the four of us connected over shared dinners. We serve appetizers, tell stories, toast with locked eyes, laugh about mistakes, and cry over heartaches. Couple friends like this are precious, and I am grateful every day we like and respect one another so much. A few years ago my husband and I moved two hours away, but the distance has not diminished our friendship. With each text, call, and visit, these stitches find us stronger in our affection .

Back in January, Ann came down for a visit. We ended up looking at mother-of-the-bride dresses at a few high-end stores. I was comfortably ensconced in the cozy chairs as Ann modeled dress after dress. My heart filled with gratitude for Ann sharing this moment with me. She may never truly know how much it meant to me to be able to giggle our way through the piles of designer dresses.

Ann has introduced me to opera. She challenges my mind. When she and her husband came to my father-in-law’s memorial service and as I heard her beautiful voice sing over the congregation, I cried tears of joy that she was there for us. Just last week she delivered soup and yogurt to my mother who is now, like the rest of us, homebound. I love her stories. I adore her passion. I admire her talents.

Happy Birthday, dearest friend. This quarantined birthday may not be the one you planned, but it will be remembered. You are my heart, my love, my touchstone. You, Rock, your Dick, and I will toast champagne together soon, ‘my friend Ann.” I love you for all you have given me and all we will share together on this fabulous journey called life.

“Friendship…is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…” – C.S. Lewis

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” – Elbert Hubbard

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” – Mark Twain

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.” -Linda Grayson

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Sharing Our Passions: Opera, Pasta, and Friendship

Have you ever had one of those days when adventure and friendship collide? When passion and food and music are shared? Some days are spent in our dreary routines filled with mindless trudging. Other days, magical days, collect fairy dust and memories that make life more festive. Yesterday was such a day.

My dear friend Ann and I were having a conversation a couple of weeks ago about music. She is a trained opera singer and college music professor with a stunning voice. Opera is her love, her infatuation, her ultimate desire. I admitted I have never watched an entire operatic production. I worked a few traveling shows back in college when I was a crew member at our college auditorium, but I only saw and heard bits from back stage or the sound booth. Ann said I needed to really appreciate opera as an audience member. A week later she texted me with an invitation to see a Met Live in HD production of Turandot at a movie theater in a neighboring town. What? An opera at the movies? I was both confused and intrigued, so I accepted.

The Metropolitan Opera has been transmitting live productions, along with backstage interviews and scene changes, to various movie theaters for ten years now. I had no idea. We were watching Tourandot along with audience members sitting at the Met in NYC. I sat back in my comfy stadium seat and drank in all the sights and sounds of an epic fairytale set in mythical China.

I was mesmerized with this sad tale of heartache, unrequited love, and riddles. The costumes were gorgeous. The sets were massive. The voices were breathtaking. Ann patiently answered my whispered questions about subtitles and performers, but I was especially intrigued by the camera shots of the scene changes during intermission. Colossal sets were pulled across the stage as dozens of stage hands took their positions. It was a show unto itself.

As the singers took their final curtain calls, I turned to Ann and we both smiled. My friend had shared her love with me and I will forever be thankful for the experience.

Later that evening she and her husband came over for dinner, and I shared a vodka sauce with penne dish and a bourbon butterscotch pie with them. This is friendship. Sharing stories. Exchanging recipes. Walking new roads together. 

With age comes a certain knowledge of joy. My circle of friends has grown tighter. I’m pickier about those I spend my precious time with these days. My friend Ann is one of the special ones. She is a storyteller, a musician, a cook, a mother, a true friend, and a sharer of peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwiches on white bread.

How much good inside a day?

Depends on how good you live ‘em.

How much love inside a friend?

Depends on how much you give ‘em.

-Shel Silverstein, Light in the Attic

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