Posts Tagged ‘Friendship’


All of the arts in some way reflect human culture, but perhaps the mirror of music is outstanding.  Most every person on earth is aware of some kind of music, either as a participator, an appreciator, or simply an unthinking “bystander” who takes the current state of the musical art for granted.

Centuries of music are layered into the human experience, and the layers I love are often those which represent memories—times of life I delight in recalling and preserving over the decades.  Such is the case of the Gospel hymns which my Grandfather Longenecker played nearly every day on his violin.

And Chopin!  I grew up in a gracious home where Chopin’s Nocturnes and Waltzes resounded from room to room, thanks to my beautiful mother who was a classical pianist.  Today I play some of these.  Although I lack Mom’s highly trained skill, my passion and determination to play Chopin’s music is boundless and he is the composer whom I love the most.

Recently I met a new-to-me composer, Erik Satie—a contemporary of another of my favorites, Debussy.  I don’t know why I’d never met Satie before—except that my parents disliked discord of any sort.  I had to discover and fall in love with composers such as Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Mahler on my own.  Satie has some uniquely discordant moments, so Mom might have considered him to be a bit off.

But Mom would have loved Erik Satie’s waltzes.  These poignantly exquisite melodies speak volumes to me of the era in which I grew up, a world which some individuals today may never even know existed—that tea-garden world of formal dances and gentility.  That time in history when boys and men still rose attentively when girls or women entered a room—a time of family dinners with cloth napkins and gracious apparel and behavior, formally set dinner tables where girls and women were carefully seated at the dinner table by boys and men.

In my home of origin, the grace and manners prevailed not only at the dinner table but throughout the days and years.  People respected other people enough to dress and look their best, with more slipshod attire appropriate only for fishing, gardening, and heavy or messy work projects.  People respected other people enough to really listen to them, rather than sit on the edge of their chairs waiting for a chance to barge back in and seize control of the conversation.

Along with Chopin, ongoing considerate conversation and a lot of laughter were the sounds of my childhood.  I was rather shocked when, as an young adult, I came to realize that some humans frequently yelled at occasions other than sporting events—and that I, myself, was unfortunately very capable of a yell.

In fact, I’d heard in-home yelling only one time in all my growing-up years:  when my UW-Madison student older sister, Ardis, brought home a Communist boyfriend named Benny.  Benny told my father that there would be a revolution in the USA, and that he—Benny—would have to assassinate his industrialist father if said father opposed the revolution.

My father YELLED!  (As a 9 year-old who regularly fed on mystery stories and spy movies, I found the yelling to be quite exciting!)

Human nature has not changed over the centuries; we are born flawed and in need of Christ’s redemption.  But outward human behavior—certainly in the USA—has changed in my lifetime of only 83 years!  And I truly believe that music heard and absorbed again and again does make inroads—whether benign or malignant—into the human psyche.  How grateful I am, for Gospel hymns, Chopin, and Eric Satie!  And the power of music, to mirror our memories and human values.

Margaret L. Been  —  June 20th, 2017

Note:  Sixty-four years ago today, I married the most precious husband on earth; and my love for Joe Been will never stop growing.  🙂

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The young ladies pictured above are not really old enough in years to be called “old friends”–yet in essence they are exactly that.  Chrissie (left) and our daughter, Martina, are currently 34 years old, and they’ve been friends since 9th grade.  At present, their lives are separated by an ocean.  But when they do get together, once a year or so, it’s like no time has elapsed.  Chrissie and Martina will always be “old friends”!

When I was a Girl Scout, back in the 1940s, we had a song we sang in a round:  “Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver, the other gold.”  As time passes, I realize more and more the truth of those words. 

This week I’m scheduled to entertain my “gold” friends for a luncheon at our home.  There are nine of us left in the group, which has met monthly since circa 1962.  Each of us takes a turn hostessing a luncheon once a year, and on the leftover months we meet at a restaurant.  But gathering in the homes is the best!

We call ourselves, “Talk and Eat”, or simply, “Club”.  Most of us went to Wauwatosa high school together–and some of the ladies have been friends since grade school days.  During the years when Joe and I lived away from this area, I missed my friends–but we kept in touch.  Now I’m back in the loop.

I’ve reflected a lot on the subject of friendship, and have come up with some “givens”–qualities and characteristics that build strong friendships and transform them from silver to gold as the years pass.  Here are a few of those givens:

1) Friends respect one another’s space.  Little considerations count, like asking “Do you have time to chat?” when calling on the phone.  We do not barge into each other’s kitchens, unless asked to help.

Good friends do not ask personal, blunt, or crass questions–or bring up a sensitive topic unless encouraged to do so.  Good friends do not consistently dump their personal problems on others.  Good friends do not try to dominate, monopolize, manipulate, or in any way use other people.  Considerate friends do not stoop to meaningless flattery, nor do they draw attention to other people’s appearance with airhead comments  such as “You are so tall!” or “You are so short!”

Occasionally, during one-on-one visits between close friends, heart to heart sharing is appropriate–and there are times for speaking the truth in love, even when the truth is unpleasant.  Honesty is vital to a friendship.  But saying whatever pops into one’s mind is rarely edifying.  The person who is consistently “frank” is probably just trying to attract attention and dominate others with her thoughtless, head-on comments.  We do well to avoid people like that!

Frequently, conversation must be serious–and a meaty exchange of ideas can be especially stimulating.  But good friends also like to talk about subjects that are simply creative and fun!

2) Friends reciprocate.  Reciprocity is essential in all areas of friendship.  Perhaps the most obvious area is that of conversation.  One simply cannot relax and enjoy the company of a person who is driven to dominate a conversation.  It is hard for many of us women, myself included, to deliberately stop talking and listen thoughtfully to others.  When another person is talking, we want to load our guns and get ready for our next barrage of words–rather then listen assiduously.  But NO!  Conversation is worthless (and totally exhausting!) when it is not reciprocal!

Reciprocity is also important in the area of entertaining.  In our ladies group, each member enjoys serving the luncheon–yet we all love to visit the other homes as well.  If I were to hostess tea parties and luncheons decade after decade or serve coffee mornings for friends who never bothered to invite me to their homes in return, I’d begin to think I was not greatly valued as a friend! 

Sometimes people don’t reciprocate because they think they don’t have what it takes to entertain.  This is totally understandable when poor health limits one’s activities.  No one expects anyone to go beyond his or her physical limits. 

But to worry about the size of one’s home, or the quality of the dishes or silver, is stupid.  It is the gathering that counts, the opening of one’s home and sharing in a spirit of hospitality.  We can have tea parties on cardboard boxes (I’ve done that plenty of times when in the process of moving!)–and dinner soirees in crowded rooms, on paper plates.  

When my time and energy is limited, or when I invite an especially large group of people, I sometimes feature a “Bring Your Own Lunch” party–where all I do is supply the hospitality of home and coffee.  This is loads of fun, with virtually no effort on my part.  So long as we welcome people and thrive on sharing whatever we can, our guests will enjoy their visits! 

The issue is to enjoy rather than to try and impress. Graciously serving a lovely meal–be it on china or paper plates–flows effortlessly from a heart of love.  Welcoming friends on a “Bring Your Own” basis is gracious too.  The spirit of hospitality prevails in an open home!

3) Friends value considerate manners.  Manners and social customs have been bad-mouthed in our casual age where sloppy clothing and crass behaviors are rampant.  What a tragedy

Manners, for instance table manners, are marks of care and consideration for others!  I’m not talking about ostentatiously curving one’s little finger in the air when sipping from a tea cup.  I’m referring to the obvious marks of loving consideration:  saying “Please pass . . . .” rather than reaching in front of someone and grabbing; not eating until the host or hostess is seated and has begun to eat; not talking with food in one’s mouth, and not chewing with one’s mouth open.

4) Friends share life experiences.  This takes time.  The women in my luncheon group have shared joys and sorrows for more than half of our lives.  We grieved over the loss of two members who died in 1997, just a few weeks apart from each other.  We’ve recently shared the sorrow of members who have lost family members.  Going back over the years, we encouraged each other when our teen age children rebelled and we rejoiced as these young ones got their lives back together.  We frequently laugh (long and hard!) over our memories and escapades.

5) Friends share values.  Members of our ladies’ group may differ in political persuasions, but there is always the underlying value of home and family.  We care about our families, and we care about each other as a family of friends. 

Although our homes vary drastically in architecture and decor, one constant prevails:  a sense of order.  Each member is creative in her own way.  This creativity is enabled and enhanced by an atmosphere of order in the members’ homes.  We are created in the image of God–a God of order.  When order is reflected in a home, visitors are refreshed and edified.

6) Friends don’t gossip!  “DUH”!

7) Friends share a cultural heritage.  This “given” is flexible.  It’s certainly desirable, enjoyable, and life-enriching to cultivate friends from many cultural backgrounds, and I’ve been blessed over the years to do that.  I love to learn about other cultures and make new friends from far-away places!

But those “gold” friends, those individuals who are thoroughly comfortable to be with–as comfy as a pair of old shoes–are frequently people who grew up under similar circumstances.  Just as family members have the family of origin in common, long-standing friends tend to share a cultural background.

My “Talk and Eat” group is a case in point.  We ladies had mothers who loved to serve a nice luncheon party for their friends, and for us when we were little girls.  Now we are “big girls”, happily carrying on the rich traditions of friendship!  We are gold!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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