A Garden of Friends

By Melissa Face

A Garden of Friends

Like neglected plants, several of my friendships are beginning to wilt and wither in the shaded corners of my life. They have been around for years and have received minimal attention at best. Now, deprived of the elements that nourish and sustain existence, they are showing signs of exhaustion. I am worried about them.

Some of my previous friendships, though, are more similar to cut flower arrangements. Bright and beautiful, they arrived at the perfect time and served as: college roommates, study partners, summer camp pals and former neighbors. They bloomed, lifted my spirits and eventually expired. These friends fit the occasions of my life like lilies at Easter. And when they were no longer decorative, they were tossed aside.

A few friends have been lost to moves I have made throughout the years. I left behind a couple when I returned to Virginia, in 2006. There was Angie, for instance. She couldn’t come with me. She was an Eastern purple coneflower, native to South Carolina, and it was unlikely that she would have survived being uprooted. And then there was Richard, my Conway cattail. Life too far from the lowcountry wouldn’t have suited him either.

Others have left me – because of jobs, men and petty disagreements. They abandoned me, and for some time, I was lonely. I missed their vibrant colors and striking blooms. But after a while, I realized that these friendships were artificial. They appeared near perfect from a distance; but up close, they were comprised merely of silk and plastic. There was no real friendship, no solid root structure.

I have also been victimized by the prickly pears of the world. I stood helpless while they devoured all the good around them. I knew they were dangerous, but I couldn’t help but be intrigued. So I became a bit too trusting, leaned in a tad too close, and their spines pierced my skin.

I spent valuable time tending to the cacti and artificial flowers in my life. I dusted their plastic leaves and admired their pincushion hides. But I will not regret that time. I will not be sorry. For without them, I would never have learned what actually belonged in my garden.

My dear friends John and Meredith are my faithful perennials. Beneath the stormiest of skies, our friendship blossomed and proved constant. Each year, John and Meredith visit from Greenville, North Carolina. Their trip is as brief and lovely as azaleas in springtime. And though I always wish they could stay longer, I find comfort in knowing that because of their very nature, they will return.

Dawn and Pat are the wildflowers in my life, the blazing stars. They are spontaneous, exciting and fun. Our time together is sporadic, but nothing short of memorable. When I am with them, I feel free and alive. Together we are uncultivated and uninhibited.

Then there are my sturdy daylilies. Their leaves are bent and their stems are brittle. Yet they hang on, tolerating the shade and the lack of water. Named the “cast iron beauties” of the plant world, they have not given up, even though I abandoned them. Their strong roots run deep; they are my closest friends.

I am fortunate that they have survived, and that it is not too late for us. I may have time to save them, but I won’t get a second chance at everything. There are some things in life for which there is but one opportunity: attending a wedding, welcoming a new baby, going to a 30th birthday party.

I have learned my lesson. From now on, I will be a better gardener. Weeds will not distract me. I will water frequently and provide plenty of sunlight. Phone calls and written notes will nourish my friendships.

I will reserve a plot of land for seeds of new friendship while maintaining the ones that continue to bring me joy. All of my friends add something different to my life; they each serve a purpose. Luckily, I have room for all varieties in my garden – and in my heart.

About this writer

  • Melissa FaceMelissa Face lives in southern Virginia with her husband, son and daughter. Her stories and essays have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort. Email Melissa at writermsface@yahoo.com.

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2 Responses to “A Garden of Friends”

  1. Pat Host says:

    Loved it, Melissa! And I love you!

  2. John says:

    What a lovely way to look at freindship. Your friendship means alot to us.

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