There’s something funny that happens at the beginning of every get together with my girlfriends. It’s the exchange. The other night we met at a Mexican restaurant, and as we unzipped our coats, took our gloves and hats off, hooked our purses on chairs and listened to the waitress quickly tell us the specials—margaritas half price…the exchange occurred. I slid a breastfeeding book I borrowed from one friend across the table. That friend passed a stack of bass fishing magazines to another—from one husband to the other. A different friend handed me a bag—three books she had borrowed so long ago, I had forgotten she had them. She also had an unfinished knitting project—baby booties—did someone want to take and finish? And the fifth friend passed out Valentine’s bags filled with candy and stuffed fabric hearts to each one of us.
In the past this exchange has included clothes—our own and baby, pictures, food, coupons. Bits and pieces, odds and ends, of our lives and personalities that when shared with one another has made life a little easier, a little better, a little brighter. More often than not this exchange of goods happens silently—no explanation necessary. I know why. She’s knows how. The what is known. And this whole thing occurs as our main conversation begins, food is ordered, and drinks arrive.
As the night came to a close, and we huddled in the entryway saying goodbye where the heater was blowing warm air, I thought maybe friendships are the exchange of life. Dear ones who quietly—amidst babies, devastating test results, cross-country moves, achievements and failures, the monotony of a long cold Minnesota winter—lend different aspects of themselves and their experiences at opportune times. And at their best—no explanation necessary.