This is not a true story. This is a totally made up story which, if you do not know, is called fiction, so if you think that you might recognize the characters in my made up story, you must be mistaken. As a Real Writer, I have easily conjured the people in the story; it has been Absolutely No Problem for me to write a fictional story just as easily as the non-fiction stuff that I normally write about, and for which I do not need to conjure people, but rather, just to tell the truth.
Anyway, this story is about a Girl—who, again, is a totally and completely different person from me—and her friend. And, while we are making things up, let’s also say that the friend would never want to be prominently featured in a story that I, or anyone else, for that matter, would write, and let’s also say that the friend’s birthday is—oh, I dunno, let’s just pick a date—let’s say it’s today. But, like I said, this is a made up story and not about real people or birthdays, so I guess it doesn’t really matter.
So anyway, once upon a time, there was a Girl who looked like a Grown Up. People thought she was a Grown Up, mostly because she was over 30 and had a husband and three kids and a master’s degree, but the truth was she was Not All the Way Grown Up. Like preschoolers (who are also Not All the Way Grown Up) she had a lot of trouble just Being Still and also Listening and Waiting Patiently and also had a tendency to frequently Say Too Much, which often resulted in her Getting Her Feelings Hurt and also having Talker’s Remorse. The girl was trying hard to Grow Up all the way and also to hide that the fact that she was Not All the Way Grown Up but fixing this involved all of the aforementioned skills that she had so much trouble with, and so she Faced Many Obstacles and often felt like a Big Faker and sometimes even A Failure.
But the Girl was lucky, too, because she had some really nice friends in the little town where she lived, including some ladies from her church, who got together once a week so that they didn’t completely lose their minds while raising their children. They called their group a Bible Study but really it was more like what preschoolers call Circle Time and grown ups call Group Therapy. Their discussions sometimes veered dangerously and hilariously off topic, but on those days, everyone was all in and it always made everybody who was there feel better. Sometimes, one of the ladies would even share really Serious and Painful things with the group, like that they were separating from their husband, or had had a miscarriage, or that their mom had a serious illness, and whenever this happened, the ladies always sprung into action to Take Very Good Care of Each Other, which began with Organizing, Making, and Bringing Casseroles.
Now, some of the ladies were really beloved Close Friends to the Girl, but truth be told, a couple of them really got on her nerves, which made her feel bad because it reminded her that she was Not Yet a Grown Up, since even in preschool everyone is required to be Friends, and this was not preschool but adult Bible Study, for Christ’s sake. So she worked hard to be a good Friend to the Friends and tried hard not to Act Out in Circle Time when she had to sit next to the Others.
There was one other Lady, too, who did not fit into either category; she was not a Close Friend, but was definitely not a Nerve Getting On-Er either. This Lady spent most of the time with the group Listening, and Choosing Her Words Kindly and Carefully; she never, ever Said Too Much and always Waited Patiently for other people to finish talking; she never interrupted or even jumped in early, as the Girl often did and Later Regretted. Admiring these skills, the Girl could see that the Lady was clearly All the Way Grown Up, but she did not know the Lady all that well, and they did not seem to be very much alike. The Girl had Absolutely No Way of Knowing that the Lady was actually The Greatest Listener in the World, right there in her group. The Girl just thought that she was a Nice Person who happened to be All the Way Grown Up and that maybe Grown Ups didn’t need close friends as much as Girls did.
And then something happened for the Girl—well, almost happened, anyway—something Really Good, something that the Girl thought was really going to help her to become a Grown Up. It had been very hard to keep Such Exciting News to herself but the girl wanted so much to Be A Grown Up or at least get better at Faking being a Grown up, so had not Said Too Much this time; she had Waited Patiently for it all to work out and just Listened, and practiced Being Still, and all the while, as she Waited and did these Grown Up Things, the Girl felt that she was finally, finally! on the road to Being A Grown Up.
And then the Deal Fell Apart and it became clear that It Was Not Going to Happen at all. The Girl vowed to keep on keeping the secret and never mention it to anyone. It was nothing like separating from your husband, or suffering a miscarriage—she understood that—it was just a small, stupid, private disappointment that she was so dumb to ever think would Really Happen in the first place, not something you ought to talk about Bible Study, not something anyone was going to or ever should bring a casserole for, and realizing that made her feel childish and ridiculous, and even sadder. And even though she didn’t say—and maybe didn’t even know then about—this part, she was most disappointed because she had thought she had Heard when she Listened, she had thought that she Heard that this would be The Very Thing that both taught and allowed her to finally be All the Way Grown Up.
But because Not Yet Grown Ups tend to regress in times of stress, and because of her very Not Yet Grown Up tendency to Say Too Much, she only made it to the next morning before blurting all of that out at Bible Study, right before she burst into tears. She knew she was traveling backwards now on the road to Being A Grown Up, she was back to being Impatient, and Not Still, and now she had probably Said Too Much about this stupid disappointment on which she’d wasted all her Efforts in Grown Up Skill and found herself, once again, nursing a serious case of Talker’s Remorse.
And then, a Most Surprising Thing happened. Later that same afternoon, while the Girl’s children were taking their naps, the Girl heard her doorbell ring. She opened the door, and there on her doorstep was the Listening Lady, and there was a warmth the Girl had never noticed before: it was on the Lady’s face, and it was on the Girl’s hands as the Lady placed a wonderfully-smelling porcelain dish into them, and it was in the Lady’s voice as she said to the Girl, “I just thought someone should bring you a casserole. I know you’re feeling sad, and I just wanted to let you know that I’m your friend, and I’m thinking of you.”
I know, right? You don’t let that kind of thoughtfulness, that kind of a friend, go unnoticed. You treasure them forever, and you never let them go. You try to be more like them. You are forever grateful they landed—literally—on your doorstep.
And that is the real and true—um, I mean, completely made up—story of a friendship, born of the Thing That Did Not Happen, and it was a friendship which, in part, did help the Girl to eventually become All the Way Grown Up. And along the way and over the years, many more things Have Happened and Have Not Happened for both of them, but all the while they’ve remained Great Friends and the Lady is still the Greatest Listener in the World and today is her birthday.