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.