The latest feature on from the sticks to the bricks and back again, First Sunday, pays tribute to the Baptist tradition of First Sunday. Attending First Sunday services always invoked a sense of joy and community in me while also reminding me to be grateful for what it is.
I am a Catholic girl, who has observed the Islamic holy month of Ramadan on multiple occasions and joined the Baptist Church by accident but stayed for years because I liked it. Currently, I attend church only on demand – baptisms, weddings and funerals. If I have to identify myself religiously I would say I’m a non-practicing Catholic/Southern Baptist with Muslim tendencies.
The focus of this feature will be gratitude and the recognition of God’s grace at work in my life. And as might be expected from a non-practicing Catholic/Southern Baptist with Muslim tendencies and lots of opinions, I might veer off onto commentary on contemporary religious issues or share some of my experiences with organized religion.
As one year ends and another begins, I find time for reflection. This year as I reflect not only on 2014 but life in general, I feel grateful for my girls – my sisters, my nieces, my sister-friends.
It occurs to me that a common theme in my life is that during the rough patches, the moments of self-doubt, the times I’ve climbed onto a ledge or sunk into a rut it is almost always my girls who are there for me: cheering me on; talking me off the ledge (figuratively, although I am confident that if I was literally on a ledge they’d attempt to talk me off that too); and pulling me off the couch so I don’t fall deeper into my rut.
No disrespect to my other half or the other men who are or have been in my life, my friendships with my girls are just different. If I’m in crisis mode during the Super Bowl, any one of my girls would be there for me, you, depending on who’s playing, might ask me to come back at halftime (preferably with some wings and nachos). It’s okay. No one man can be all things to any woman. That’s why God created sister-friends.
I am fortunate to have been blessed with some strong, supportive relationships with the girls in my life. Not every woman can say that and not every woman is capable of being a sister-friend. A wise woman is fully aware of this and that sometimes women and girls are just evil to each other. It is unfortunate when this happens because these women and girls are missing out on an opportunity for a lifetime of friendship and support.
At an early age, I was trained to be a sister-friend and appreciate the difference between true and casual friends in the kitchens of my nana and my mom.
In my nana’s kitchen, women gathered every weekend, drinking coffee, eating cookies and cake, and talking. There were the women nana knew from having once lived near each other, the women she knew from work, bowling or her social club and sometimes my great aunts, nana’s sisters and sisters-in-laws. Week after week of my childhood, these women congregated in nana’s kitchen sharing the events of the past week with each other around the kitchen table. I would come and go from the room, mostly go after grabbing cookies for my sisters and grandfather to enjoy as we watched television in the nearby den.
Still, the women in nana’s kitchen intrigued me. Early on, I observed that when they spoke in hushed tones they were talking about something serious – illness, a gambling or philandering husband, financial woes, problems with one of their children. I would slip back into the kitchen, usually unnoticed, grabbing more cookies and stealing a snippet of their conversation. I learned that the women left around nana’s kitchen table during these hushed conversations were nana’s true friends; her sister-friends who were treated as part of our extended family.
My mother’s kitchen was also the focal point in our home both for our family and the women in my mom’s life. The gatherings at my mom’s kitchen table were different from those at my nana’s table. Mom never had a group of women gathered at her table unless it was largely family.
There were the neighbor women and the wives of my father’s friends. Mom tolerated these women on a limited basis; only during the weekday and never at supper time or the weekend. These women weren’t mom’s friends; just bored suburban housewives and since my mom seldom, actually almost never visited them they took it upon themselves to visit her.
The women my mother welcomed at her table were some of the same women who gathered in my nana’s kitchen, mostly aunts or extended family. There were several girlfriends, most of whom proved to be true friends. Difficulties like illness and marital problems will always show us who our true friends are and provide us with the opportunity to be a true sister-friend.
These women of my childhood are all gone now, the last one passed away just before this past Thanksgiving. Whether it was their intention or not they taught me a valuable lesson in life at an early age: the importance of sister-friends and how to tell the difference between true and casual friends.
I am grateful for the lesson the women who gathered around the kitchen tables of my mom and nana gave me on friendship. I think it is because of their example early in my life that I find myself naturally drawn to friendships with strong, supportive women whether in my actual daily life or my virtual life on Twitter and WordPress. My life would not be as rich without the company and support of my girls.