I am strolling through the aisles of my local grocery store looking for that small something to attach to the cards my daughters have worked on meticulously over the last weekend. A bag of pink M&Ms catches my eye. I calculate I should have enough in two bags and add it to my cart.
“What or who is a friend?”
I have been asking this question to Ammu, Pattu, Laddu, and Saathi over the course of the past few days. The twins answer identically as if this were an exercise they had done before.
“Someone whom you like and they like you. Someone with whom you share something in common with.”
Laddu rattles off the names of her classmates pausing at a couple to indicate they are BFFs.
Saathi grudgingly answers, scolding me for my mind games. I realize as adults our view of friendship is transactional. We talk about listening and sharing. We talk about what we give and take from that relationship. There is no “just being”.
As the cashier rings up my purchases, I am tempted by the heart-shaped candy accessibly placed. I resist temptation and move on. The ride home is too short to process all the thoughts in my head.
Every February, the school here celebrates Valentine’s day as friendship day. They encourage children to bring in cards for their friends. If the first few years I wrote the messages and bagged the cards with candy and pencils, the last couple of years, the children have been hands on. As always, they set aside cards for their dad and me.
We talk about Hallmark holidays and why this is nothing but an invention to get people to spend money on things they do not need. It flies right over their head. This year I have been thinking about my friends. The people who have touched my life in ways they may not comprehend. So, today, I decided I will give thanks to these special people.
To my cousin and BFF V, you have been the one constant in my life. Thank you for being there. Always.
To my childhood friend S, thank you for sharing your books and your rattan chair with colorful cushions. My memories of childhood will be incomplete without them.
To my school friends M and S, thank you for defining the meaning of friendship, for providing me a group to belong to, for letting me feel accepted and included. We may not meet often but when we do, I still feel special.
To my college buddies, the ten of us, for being that corner in the world that was all my own. For the endless chats, the overnight study sessions, for movies during the school day and for elaborate birthday parties. You will always be that sweet nostalgic memory.
To A, for being my BFF, for still being my friend after all the highs and lows, for showing that friendship is rough and patchy and yet worth holding on to. For being that voice that can brighten my day any time. For showing me that time and distance is no barrier to being friends.
To my online friends, my friends from the Bangalore days, my cheerleaders, the ones who banded together to celebrate my life, for sending monogrammed shirts when my children first came home, for journals that inspire me to continue this writing journey, for books on the craft of writing, for weekly calls to check in on me when Saathi is out of town, for making me feel like what I write matters.
To my local friends for being my girl tribe, for celebrating me when no one else does, for dropping food off when I carried Laddu to term, for clothes, shoes, jackets that keep coming year after year. For the ladies night outs, risqué jokes, laugh out loud moments and impromptu lunch invites.
To my siblings for being that invisible net beneath my feet, for being my emergency contact, for being the backup should anything happen to me. I owe you both. I love you.
To Saathi for proving to me year after year that love cannot survive without friendship, without respect, and without equality.
To Amma for morphing into a friend and confidante, forty years later.
I love you all. Happy Valentine’s Day!