Stories of Friendship: The one who taught me to be an adult

On Fridays, I’m resurrecting my series from the fall, Stories of Friendship. You can read them under the “friendship” category on the righthand side. If you’ve got one to share, e-mail a short post and a picture to lmbartelt (at) gmail (dot) com.

I can’t believe I did a series on friendship and haven’t yet introduced you to my friend Amanda.

Here we are on college graduation day. Isn't she lovely?

Here we are on college graduation day. Isn’t she lovely?

Amanda is the friend who taught me, showed me really, what it meant to be a grown-up.

Our friendship began freshman year of college through a friend of a friend, I think. (Isn’t it funny how I can’t always remember how the best of friendships begin? Maybe that’s how it is.) Amanda was bold and outspoken, friendly and sure of herself. That’s how I saw her anyway. And even at 18, she’d been a grown-up a long time already, helping out in her single-parent household.

I could always count on Amanda to tell it like it was, even if the truth hurt. She was the first person to tell me something along the lines of “let go and let God” when life was overwhelming and I didn’t think I could handle it. She was and is full of wisdom. She is funny, sarcastic and I’m smiling just thinking about her smile because it is so contagious.

As seniors, we lived together in an apartment, one of the more interesting buildings on campus. It was old and brick and I think there were only two apartments, maybe three in our building. Our kitchen window looked across to the apartment in the building next door where some other friends lived and we often danced and made faces across the way through our windows.

It was in this apartment that I learned what it meant to be a grown-up. When you live in the dorms you don’t have to cook for yourself or wash dishes. You have to do laundry, but you don’t have to keep a lot of space clean. I have hated housework long before I knew what it was, and I was not always held accountable in my house for helping out with things like dishes or cleaning the bathroom. (I struggle with these chores to this day.) But Amanda was different in that she helped take care of her household.

I remember one time when we lived in the dorms and a student said something about “that lady who cleans the bathrooms,” referring to the dorm’s cleaning lady, and Amanda lit into her because at her house, she was the lady who cleaned the bathroom. She had taken the time to get the cleaning lady’s name and get to know her. To Amanda, the woman wasn’t just a servant to us spoiled college students. She saw her as a person and identified with her.

Similarly, she often had to have a chat with me about the dishes. She was more likely to do them than I was and that became a problem when she was the one always doing the dishes. I knew almost nothing about cooking and she taught me some things. I think she was the first person to teach me about no-bake cookies.

I have fond memories of our year of living together. Like many of my college friendships, over the years the bond has been stretched. Amanda is another person I haven’t seen since my wedding, I think. I didn’t make it to hers because I was grossly pregnant with our son and travel was not a good idea.

Earlier this year, I needed to call her for some advice on planning a catering-style menu, and the first words out of her mouth when she picked up the phone made me chuckle and assured me that my friend Amanda was just like I remember her. (Not to say that she hasn’t changed because I think everyone changes with time.) It was a business-like call but it was so good to talk to her and receive encouragement for a hard task, and it made me want to find a way to see her, too. She lives closer to my hometown now than she ever did when I lived there and I still haven’t made it to her area of the state to see her!

When I think of strong women, I think of Amanda. She is the kind of fun and sassy friend with a depth of wisdom that everyone needs in their life. It’s a rare combination but one I treasure.

And did I mention that she’s super creative and began exploring creative writing at the same time I did? She is high on my list of people who will be first readers of my novel because I trust her opinion and know she’ll give it to me straight.

I’m happy to say that being roommates didn’t ruin our friendship. I think it strengthened it.

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