Gold Friends

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 There’s a song we used to sing at Girl Scouts camp…

Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver, and the other’s gold.

I love to make new friends.  But old friends are gold friends.  They are treasure chests that get buried sometimes by time and distance.  You may have to go out of your way to find them again, but when you do, it’s like uncovering a rare thing.  You cherish it.

My Lynnie is a gold friend.  We have known each other for something like thirty-six years. She has had a profound impact on my life.  We first met in Wheaton, Illinois when Lynn was newly married and I was still struggling to find my way in life.  Lynn grew up in South Africa and her heart and soul are embedded deeply in that country.  It was Lynnie who introduced me to Alan Paton’s book, Cry the Beloved Country, then the beloved country itself, and finally, my beloved husband.  It was because of Lynn that I dreamed of seeing a country I never even knew existed.  I didn’t know it would become the biggest adventure of my life and that I would end up living there for six years.

When Lynn and Bill moved to South Africa, I joined the airlines so I could go visit them and see Africa.  We went on an epic journey together I will never forget. In my enthusiastic American style, I kitted myself out in khaki safari shorts and hat, just like they do in the movies, and eagerly signed up for a personal trek through the bush with my very own Zulu guide.  As it was in the heat of the afternoon, Lynn and Bill relaxed back at camp.  Every African knows you don’t see any game at the highpoint of the day.  Sure enough, I came back to camp without seeing a single animal and had nothing to show for my bundu bashing but socks needled with blackjacks.  We still laugh about it.  With gold friends, you can make a total fool out of yourself and know they’ll still be your friends.  The next morning, we went out for an early early game drive, the way you’re supposed to do it, and came upon a stand of yellow fever trees.  Emerging through the morning mist were giraffe, moving and blending in mystical harmony with the tall, pale trees.  We stopped in our Hi-Ace tracks, transfixed by the beauty of the moment.  In quiet awe, I had discovered Lynnie’s Africa.

Since moving to England from South Africa twenty years ago, I’ve only seen Lynn on annual return trips.  Now, that she’s moved back to America, it’s been four years since we last got together.  Far too long.  So on my recent visit to North Carolina, I made the point of driving down to Charlotte from Raleigh to see her.  My Lynnie is the kind of gold friend who brings me a cup of tea in the morning and then snuggles in with me.  We went out for tea and pastry later on in the day and talked for hours.  Gold friends know the joy of conversation over a mellow cup of liquid gold.   It’s your time together.  Life may be rushing around you.  But gold friends take the time just to be, talk, listen, and remember.  Because they know you and you know them.

Thank you, Lynnie.  It was also you who introduced me to this marvellous ritual called teatime.  In heaven, there will be the golden glow of yellow fever trees shining through the morning mist.  You will find Lynnie and me drinking heaven’s brew there.  I promise you.

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