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On the walls of friendship

Katie Painting
“They’re here!” our friend Kathy crowed as Julia and I arrived to her house in Waldoboro Maine last Saturday night.  Kathy was my roommate when I first moved to CA. She was a Bio grad student getting her PHD. She lived with me and “Johnny Rad,” a ginger-haired drummer who was not only monstrous on his instrument but had the cartoon characteristics of both Calvin and Hobbes. The three of us became a family even as the house became a revolving door for great musicians that formed 52nd Cousins, The Cousins and finally Comfy Chair.  
Kathy moved to Maine with her family in 2005 and this was our reunion with her.  I was struck by the earnestness of her laughter and tears that punctuated her embrace as she welcomed us into her home.  We were so fortunate to be receiving such a welcome. It made me wonder…just how often do we allow ourselves to demonstrate the fullness of our affection for one another?
There are friendships which are solely dependent on past recollection and those which can draw from the past, savor the present and share and strengthen future hopes.  Everyone we were fortunate enough to stay with over this past week fall into the latter category. 
It is interesting when you visit friends, who are kind enough to let you into their worlds. On the road you have a limited time to ‘catch up’. While it can be tempting to skate on the surface of things, listing accomplishments and milestones, it is a privilege to get to dive right in and take up where you left off.
When we go into a new house, I will usually look at the book shelves and Julia immediately looks at what is hanging on the walls. What makes it onto the walls can be a conscious or subconscious reflection of where or who we are currently.  One of the first things Kathy showed us was her children’s artwork on the walls. The decorum also included historical family photos, Dr. Who, other science fiction and fantasy memorabilia, including a small blue statue of my favorite super hero, The Tick. All of this dovetailed with their many book shelves stuffed with classic literature, science texts, as well as serial capers ranging from The Hardy Boys and Tin Tin to Star Wars and Harry Potter.  All of these looked quite natural in a house that had been built well over a hundred years ago and it all made us quickly feel right at home.  
Corn Aradillo
Our friend, EJ, is a famous interpreter for many deaf communities around the world, especially in Jewish education and musical circles.  Her walls are a colorful monument to a life filled to the brim with a prankster’s commitment to love, communication and expanding the vastness of joy. She also has the world’s largest collection of armadillo tchotchkes. Her first teaching curriculum centered on armadillos and they represent how resilient and resourceful she is in augmenting the lives of those around her.
Last night, we asked our friend Katie about a painting of her house hanging on the wall.  This led to her sharing an amazing history of her house, whose occupants included Susan B. Anthony and the Mary Lyon, who founded Mt. Holyoke, the first women’s college in America. The portrait of the house was painted by a neighboring pastor who married the daughter of the family who lived there…the grandfather of the woman who lived in the house before Katie.
Taking the time to explore what we have chosen to display or not display on our walls is a meditation in itself.  Is it meaningful?  Is it there to make you smile or remember?  Oh, the stories that are ready to be told! Our Facebook “Walls” can represent us in a fleeting manner, but what we choose to surround ourselves with on a daily basis can be powerful.
Before this trip, we have been unpacking and taking time to decorate the walls of our new space. When we get home, we will be mindful of appreciating what is there, what will remain and what may change.
May your décor, whatever it is, bring you peace and reflect the grandeur of your being.