Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Old Friends

Remember that song from Girl Scouts, "make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold . . . "? C'mon, you know you do.

I was thinking about it because this past weekend was my 8th annual "Gardening Weekend" with my two oldest and dearest friends from Wisconsin. This started in 2000 when I wanted to put in a perennial garden and they offered to come down and help. We gardened that year and the next, but then, due to the beauty of perennials (they keep coming back no matter how non-green your thumb is) we found ourselves with time on our hands. So, we shopped. And that's what we've been doing every spring since (because, clothes are NOT like perennials, we explain to anyone who asks). The weekend, like old friends, has a definite rhythm to it. They arrive late Friday afternoon. After exclaiming over how good each of us looks and commenting on the cute new hairstyles at least one of us is sporting, we get down to business: sitting on my front porch, snacking and drinking wine. The next day, after lingering over coffee and whatever new breakfast recipe I've come up with (this year it was leftover lemon cake from the night before, but we dressed it up with fresh berries), we head out. At every store, we ask for (and are willing to wait if necessary) the biggest dressing room so we can all pile in together to critique the various outfits. About two hours into the shopping, we head to our regular stop: the Mexican restaurant in the mall for quesadillas and a pitcher of margaritas (over ice with salt). Our shopping purchases usually multiply after that rest stop. By evening, we've hauled home a new spring wardrobe for each of us and have only one thing left to do--decide what to wear for our dinner out. This is the only thing that varies year to year--we always try a new restaurant (at least for them). Sunday, they head back, and I model the new clothes for my husband who nods approvingly.

So, why did I bore all of you with this? No, not to show you the totally girl side of me. (I actually have a point to make about books if you'll just hang with me a bit longer.) It's that I so appreciate the comfort and ease of old friends. People who knew me when, know me now and love me anyway. People who knew me 40 pounds and numerous bad hairstyles ago. People who knew me before I was a mom, a writer, a wife.

And that's why I reread books. I have a new pile of books to read--some I bought at recent book festivals, some are ARCs sent to me for blurbs and reviews, some were gifts for Christmas--and I'm really looking forward to reading them. But, first, I'm going to reread To Kill a Mockingbird, for oh, probably the 30th time. I want to feel that comfort and that familiarity. I want to see something new in people I love and care about and trust. I certainly don't reread all my books (who has time?), and I'll probably skim some of Mockingbird, too, but I'll crawl into it, knowing what to expect, and it won't let me down. I love characters like that--who feel real long after I've turned the last page. And then, when I get back to my own writing (first thing tomorrow morning), I'll be even more inspired to create the same kind of people--who are real and flawed and struggling with doing the right thing in spite of themselves. Who have quirks and fears and hopes. Because that's who I want to spend time with when I read . . . and when I write.


Lisa said...

Judy, I love the comfort of pulling out an old favorite book every few years. When I was a kid, I must have read The Outsiders and That Was Then, This is Now by S.E. Hinton dozens of times. Now, every few years I pull out A Fine and Private Place, by Peter S. Beagle and I revisit the wonderful New Hampshire locations and characters Ernest Hebert created in his Darby series, starting with The Dogs of March. They are like old friends

The Writers' Group said...

A book I used to re-read each year was The Stand,maybe I'll give it yet another go. Now I tend to choose Memoirs of a Geisha and The Lovely Bones.

As for you and your friends, what a lovely way to spenda weekend. Nice to know that at least one weekend a year you make yourselves and each other the priority. Sounds like a novel I once read.


Larramie said...

I know why you love to reread Mockingbird, Judy; it's all about Atticus. ;o) Yet what better writing inspiration is there?

Also, there's a term for your friends -- "forever friends!"

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Oh, Lisa, I wore the covers off of those two S. E Hinton books--and were you thrilled when you learned they were written by a young woman? I sure was.

Amy, it is one of the best weekends of the year for all of us. We usually try to get it on the calendar by January because with 11 kids between us it can get a little complicated.

Larramie, yes, you caught me--it's an Atticus crush! Love the "forever friends" term, too.

Lisa said...

I loved that it was written by a teenager. I'll never forget the Robert Frost poem in the book:

Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay

Tracy said...

Hi, I'm a newbie here. I love Atticus, too. I reread a book about another southern gentleman (not!), Ignatius, in Confederacy of Dunces. I revisited all of the zany characters I love and the memory of my hometown, New Orleans...which is so different now. Very comforting to see my old friends.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Thanks for stopping by Tracy. Atticus and Ignatius certainly are a study of contrasts, aren't they?

Therese said...

One of my favorite re-reads is BEL CANTO. But every flawed struggler is a character worth my time--and gee, I should be working on one of my own right now...


Ghost Girl said...

Oh Judy, you are so right. Old books and old friends never really leave us, and its magical when we can pull both of them out and reconnect. It's funny how we see new things as we get older, no matter how close we to our friends or how many words we've worn away turning the pages of those books over and over again.

My dearest friend in the world and I have been buddies since we were 9 years old. We still connect as often as we can (long distance and sometimes that means only once every 2-3 months). And each time we talk, no matter how long it has been, it's as if we were never apart.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond is one of those books for me. I still cry when I read it. My heart still races.

Here's hoping I can create that someday with my on novel.

cce said...

Read that Frost poem at my Grandmother's funeral and I've been reading Michael Cunningham's The Hours over and over again's like stretching my brain before writing, a pre-creative ritual. Sometimes the rhythm of words is as attractive to me as the characters or the plot.
I love that your girls' weekend includes gardening. Y'all sound like my kind of peeps.

Anonymous said...

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