December 1, 2011 —
Before I drove to Pittsburgh, PA to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends, I thought about all of the songs that have been written on the subject and selected my CDs for the ride with that in mind. Nostalgic to a fault, I prepared myself for the eight-hour drive by choosing the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Road Trippin’” to begin my journey, and headed out in the pouring rain—which stayed with me throughout the 400 miles, door to door.
Janet Jackson’s “Call on me” got me thinking about my mom and the wonderful holidays we shared over the years, while the Rembrandt’s “I’ll be there for you” reminded me that she is gone—but not forgotten. Growing up, my parents had a lot of friends and instilled in me the importance of building deep, meaningful relationships with people outside of my immediate family, setting the groundwork for a lifetime of love, support and good times with a group of close-knit pals, who have stood by me (and vice-versa) through thick and thin. Through the speakers, Dionne Warwick told me “That’s what friends are for.”
According to a study documented in the American Sociological Review (asr.sagepub.com), “Americans are thought to be suffering a loss in the quality and quantity of close friendships since (at least) 1985.” The study states that 25% of Americans have no close confidants, and research has found a link between fewer friendships and psychological regression. The study goes on to postulate that “making friends seems to be trouble to a lot of people and having no friends can be emotionally damaging in some cases.”
Thankful that I have little trouble making new friends and that I cherish those that I’ve kept for years, I listened to Bill Withers’ version of “Lean on Me” and reminisced about my friend Bob (whose home I was headed for) and the 30-odd years we have been best friends. I couldn’t help but think about the pals that we shared (and lost) over the years as Bette Midler’s “Friends” reverberated, taking me back to the ‘80s and the AIDS crisis. Midler’s voice quavered as she sang “I had some friends but they’re gone—someone came and took them away... and from the dusk till the dawn, here is where I’ll stay.”
The gloomy weather and monotonous drive could have sent me down a path of maudlin depression, but I shook it off and decided to accentuate the positive, reliving the parties, holidays and celebrations that have provided so much joy in our lives. Since it was Thanksgiving, I made a mental list of the many things I am grateful for and surprised myself, realizing that my cup runneth over. C.S. Lewis once wrote that “To the ancients, friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it.”
I’m not sure that is entirely true, and it’s certainly not my experience, since my circle of close friends consider our kinship intensely important and precious. With the CD player in “shuffle mode,” James Taylor’s voice intensified my reverie as his recording of “You’ve Got a Friend” began. Www.about.com  says that “Few other songs come close to this song’s simple poignance of friends helping and supporting each other,” and I heartily agree.
Pulling up to the house, Bob and his husband Ron came racing out to greet me, swept me into their arms and held me close just as the last strains of “Thank you for being my friend” faded out from the “Golden Girls” tribute playing in the truck. Hugs and kisses ensued, and the holiday celebration began in earnest, as the house filled with more company, good food and more dogs than I could count. I threw caution to the wind and joined the madness as we lit a fire, played endless games of Aggravation and spent four glorious days staying up late and burning up the phones calling our loved ones who couldn’t be there.
We laughed, we cried and partied like (aging) rock stars and the Thanksgiving feast was peppered with endless toasts to friendships (old and new). I was reminded once again, of how fortunate I am to have such wonderful, loving, caring and supportive relationships and took a moment to remind Bob that he is (IMHO) “the wind beneath my wings.”
Exhausted (and hung over), I heaved myself into the truck to begin the trek homeward, thrilled to have been there, yet happy to be going home, where I have more wonderful friends, a job that I love and (hopefully) new adventures waiting in the wings. I slipped a disc into the player, waved goodbye to my hosts, pumped up the volume and heard the Beatles reminding me that life is good—with a little help from my friends.