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FIRST PERSON

COMMITMENTS : Treasures Found in a Lifetime of Friendships

October 17, 1994|BEA MAXWELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Some of my favorite friendships started out as a voice on the telephone, a warm smile on the stairs or a quick "Hi!" in the office.

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Sometimes years went by before an inner voice spoke up, urging me to take the next step. Reaching out seemed risky, but when I did, I found friendships that seemed fated to occur.

Some of these friendships go back longer than I can remember. For five years, in some cases, my phone acquaintances and I would take care of business, then move on to our personal ups and downs, our adventures, even our attempts for growth in our lives. We shared much of ourselves and our experiences and became closer with each call . . . an often supportive kind of friendship.

Finally one of us would say, "Hey, enough! We've got to meet. Let's set a date now to meet face to face. I feel like you're an old friend."

And so it happened last Saturday. Francy and I agreed to meet for brunch in Old Town Pasadena.

How would we recognize each other? We both described ourselves as short, with short curly hair (with a few, ahem, gray strands). I offered to carry a sign with the letter B. But then our intuitive selves decided, "We'll know."

And we did.

Two smiling faces converged amid passersby. For hours we enjoyed each other's company--book-browsing in Barnes & Noble, scanning the clothes in J. Crew.

Our farewell this time was a hug instead of the "Take care. Talk to you later. (Click.)" So much richer this exchange, so much more meaningful this reaching out and sharing face to face. This friendship will go on, we know. There is much we have in common . . . our experiences with life.

Like me, many of my friends, too, are shy. Often I feel as though I'm out on a limb, but still want to reach out to others, let them know, "Yeah, life is a bitch sometimes, but you know we can share and talk about life and laugh about it together. Swoosh it away."

Life, I believe, was not meant to be lived in a vacuum, no matter what has shadowed our paths prior to our arrival to today. We need to reach out to one another. Sometimes, yes, we are rebuffed, but more often we're rewarded. Nothing can take the place of a smile, kind words, a touch or a hug.

Another treasured friendship began more than 10 years ago with a neighbor and I exchanging half-smiling nods as we passed in our back-alley parking structures in Beverly Hills.

I had two tickets for a play, the eight-hour "Nicholas Nickleby," at the Music Center. None of my friends could imagine sitting through such an ordeal no matter how enjoyable the play or comfortable the seats.

Not eager to go alone or waste the other ticket, I decided to try my nameless, smiling neighbor. Gently I knocked on her door, slightly afraid she might even hear me and label me a tad "ditsy." Footsteps within. Her blue eyes gazed through the peephole into my nervous brown eyes.

"Hi," I said. "My name is Bea and I've got two tickets for the 'Nicholas Nickleby' play and I wond. . . ."

"I'm Jo," she replied, opening the door. "And I'd love to. I've been trying to get tickets for that play."

We spent a lovely day enjoying the play, a picnic lunch on the balcony, the water fountain ballet and getting acquainted during the breaks.

Ten years have passed. I no longer live across from her, but our friendship grows ever deeper. We seem to know each other so well. Know when to respect each other's privacy and our needs for aloneness. An acceptance of the knowledge of who we are, our uniqueness and knowing we give to each other some little treasure.

There's Audrey too. How long since our first "hi" at the educational film company where we both worked? No, it can't be--16 years ago.

When our kaffeeklatsch was salted by the tears of my divorce, she sweetened it with words of new doors opening that turned into a celebration of my getting my master's degree.

We've grieved together over other personal sorrows and losses (although we've not yet celebrated the loss of weight for the two of us). We've laughed a lot too.

She and I are meeting Sunday for a movie. The time and place is set, but not the movie. All that matters is that we're getting together.

The rest will fall into place.

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