Truth About Friends: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Who among us does not have a friend.  Rhetorical question.  Ever been told that to have a friend one must first be?

My little boy is learning about friendship, and as I observe his interactions, I realize that friendship is complicated.  Who is a friend?  Is it the person you see often?  Is it someone who is like you?

Does having many friends mean you’re a nice person?  Does having only a few friends mean you’re not?

Whatever friendship should be, I made this decision.  I will not tell my son who is and who isn’t his friend.  Why?  Because choosing a friend is a very personal decision.

The Good

“Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience; this is the ideal life.” ~ Mark Twain

I understand Mark Twain’s statement to be the middle of the road, easy-peasy, sit on the fence position about friendship.  As we wander through life, we meet those people we interact with on a regular basis.  Like your ex-neighbour who now lives too far away to see weekly, but we keep contact through social media.  She is someone we can share with about the worry of the month or the bug bite in that part of the body you whisper instead of out loud.  These are the good guys.

The Bad

“The sincere friends of this world are as ship lights in the stormiest of night.”  ~ Giotto di Bondoni

Then, we have those friends that seem to appear when life hands you lemons.  You may not see these people very often.  In fact, you think of them once in a blue moon, like during Christmases or when something very specific happens.  Sort of like when you’re trying to find that coconut cream pie recipe – not just any recipe but that specific one that people talk about for weeks after you bring it in to work.  You got it from her, who got it from her grandmother, who in turn got it from the friend of a friend of that really famous chef.

No, they’re not bad friends.  They’re the friends who are better than the “normal” friends because these friends hug and wipe your tears when you’re in a really bad place.  They love you, will drop everything they possibly can to stay by you.  They hold your hand until you are ready to let go and wing it on your own again.

The Ugly

“A friend is one who knows us but loves us anyway.” ~ Fr. Jerome Cummings

What’s ugly – well, the truth about you…and ME.  Let’s face it: we all have our ugly side.  So ugly that we expend quite a bit of effort into pretending that this side does not exist.  Actually, I can’t face my ugliness.  (No, I’m not going to share my ugliness!)

I am very lucky to have not one but two friends who are my “ugly” friends.  And there is no doubt in my mind that they love me.  Even more importantly, they like me.  They put up with me, and they laugh with me.

How do I know?  Well, he chose to stay with me when I could not even bear to live with myself.  And, he’s still here.  Even when I try to pin my troubles on him, he stayed on to listen to my whines and then hugged me afterwards.  Then, he told me that he loved me.

Your Turn

Before you go, do you know who your friends are?  The good, the bad and, especially, the ugly?  You ought to.  Do it for yourself.

Keep making friends – someone said that there are two kinds of people in this world: friends & strangers.  The strangers are friends you have not yet met.  Maybe we will meet some day, and then we can see what kind of friends we will be.  Until then, take care!

Memories of Eternity

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “eternal” using descriptions of time, such as everlasting, existing, always, forever, duration or perpetual.  As living things, we are sentimental beings able to treasure and relish precious and important events, people and things as memories.  Since our existence is dictated by Time, we keep treasure troves of that which we hold dearest as mental records.  The records that weigh the heaviest, mean the most or ring the loudest become our “memories of eternity”.

The well-accepted reference of encyclopaedia Britannica explains “memory” as “the encoding, storage, and retrieval in the human mind of past experiences.”  If we were to peer into our minds as we do a photo album of our lives, we would see a commonality that joins humanity.  For to most of us, we draw our memories of eternity from people that define who we are.  These people tend to be those who were with us at our very earliest of memories, such as grandparents, parents, or teachers.

Grandparents live on in our memories as if they never left us.  The times we spent with them over summer holidays or at Christmas time appear as real as the person next to us.  If we had a Grandfather who took us fishing on a boat at a lake and taught us how to bait the hook to catch the best trout, we can be sure we have not forgotten.

Or, if we had a dedicated teacher who took the time to show us just how to throw a football.  That teacher’s name is permanently engraved in our memories of eternity.  We will not forget their faces or the colour of their eyes, if that were the feature that became the characteristic we used to define their specialness.

We also draw our memories of eternity from events that alter who we are at present.  Many of us can recall our first day at school or the first time we accomplished a project independently.  Those of us who were allowed to go to summer camps will remember the mixed emotions of euphoria and trepidation as we enter a “world” outside of our parents’ safety net.

As we progress through time, we would have experienced our high school graduation prom.  Only now, we can smile at the courage it took to present ourselves fashionably, or how our friends looked in “nice” formal clothes instead of our usual “cool” everyday attire.  Then, just like in fairy tales when the clock struck midnight (although ours was hours afterwards), our lives returned to what it was before–as if the dance took place in another reality.  Yet, we’ve all crossed a threshold of a common experience and share in the dawning of a new phase in our lives.

We will remember our first kiss, our wedding day, our first job, our first child.  Some are lucky enough to even have second chances that fit perfectly as one of our memories of eternity.  A second marriage, if truth be told, can sometimes be more loving by leaps and bounds.  What else would persuade us to go to the altar once more, if not for love?!

Finally, there are things that stand tall, grand and mighty enough to be cherished as one of our memories of eternity.  We have often heard of the first paycheque that was framed and proudly displayed.  Then, there is the graduation diploma we never thought we would ever get.  And, of course, the wedding rings that mean more than the biggest, brightest diamonds that eventually came to define the human capacity at love and commitment, “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse”.

Whatever our memories of eternity are, one thing is constant.  They are keepers.

Family Traditions

The United States (U.S.) is the third largest populated country in the world and can be categorized into five regions in alphabetical order:  Midwest, Northeast, South, Southeast and Western.  Culturally, the U.S. is one of the most diverse in the world and adopts its family traditions from the European English of the 1600s.

Additionally, the U.S. borrows traditions of the Native Americans, Latin Americans, Africans, and Asians, to name a few.  Once descriptively ascribed as a cultural “melting pot”, U.S family traditions is a plethora of not only differing cultures, but various sets of religions, histories, languages, and influences.

Many U.S. family traditions are observed on public holidays even though the constitutional authority to create and enforce public holidays is reserved to each State.  However, each State generally allows local jurisdictions to dictate their own holidays.  Still, U.S. residents are generally known to be holiday enthusiasts who continue to practice several U.S. family traditions each year.

Independence Day is one U.S. family tradition in the U.S. is Independence Day.  July 4th is when the U.S. celebrates its independence from hundreds of years of Colonial British rule.  On Independence Day, families gather for food and reunion that typically ends with a colourful finale of fireworks.

U.S. Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in the month of May.  U.S. residents mark this day by recognizing the sacrifice of the U.S. Armed Forces members and that of their families.  Crowds gather to attend commemorative services appropriate for the public and military personnel alike to honour fallen soldiers.  In similar fashion, like-minded groups gather in private services.

Valentine’s Day, which falls on the 14th day of February, is a U.S. family tradition that is widely recognized around the world.  Sentiments such as “Be Mine”, “I love you”, “Hugs and Kisses”, “SWAK” (Sent with a kiss), “Sweetheart”, and “happy valentine’s day” are exchanged between giver and recipient, atop decorative cards, flowers, candies, chocolates, and other creative idea holders. It is also a tradition that is popularly practiced by the very young among us.  Unlike those mentioned above, Valentine’s Day is not a public holiday.  This fact makes this family tradition one of the most practiced regardless of age, culture, beliefs, vocation or social standing.

One major U.S. family tradition is Thanksgiving Day.  U.S. Thanksgiving Day is observed on the fourth Thursday in November, even though its neighbor to the north celebrates Canadian Thanksgiving Day earlier on the second Monday in October.  For this family tradition, parades, football, harvest festival, religious observances, pumpkins, turkey and gathering of close friends and families have become a theme of Thanksgiving Day.  U.S. Thanksgiving also refers to the first Thanksgiving of 1621 where Pilgrims feasted for three days after their first harvest following a drought in the New World.  The first Thanksgiving is remembered as a religious offering of thanks and prayer, witnessed by Native Americans.

Finally, one of the merriest U.S. family traditions of all is Christmas and New Year’s Day that both closes the “old” and opens the “new” years.  With the passing of time, Christmas Day continues to experience the diluting of religious references.  As a result, Christmas has come to be addressed as “Happy Holidays” in an effort to be inclusive to a wider demographic of U.S. residents.  Santa Claus, elves, the North Pole, reindeers, and Christmas tree are just as popular as the Nativity.  Presents under the Christmas tree as families and close friends gather on Christmas day to enjoy a Turkey dinner with all the finishing at the dinner table is widely practiced throughout the country.   Children remain on their best behaviour eagerly anticipate Santa’s arrival with a giant sack filled with presents on Christmas Eve while adults attack the shops with wallets open wide to make this one of the happiest season of all.  While Christmas concentrates on the delight of children, New Year’s is more of an adult celebration that involves champagne countdown parties, and of course, a kiss (hopefully?) to ring in the next 365 days.

American family traditions are well known not only in the U.S. but around the world.  As previously mentioned, many of these traditions originated with different people groups and religious practices.  So, it is not surprising to see that some U.S. family traditions are still practiced in various places around the world.  While the rules and observances may differ from place to place, one thing remains the same.  Family traditions give people a reason to come together to create new memories, share good food and reminisce.  Happy Celebrations to you and yours!