With a Little Help From My Friends
Lee Ann Leach
“…suddenly, all my friends are coming back to me. Sharing pieces of our own eternities, but the most important thing is that all my friends, are coming back to me.” — “All My Friends,” Jeremy Thomas
It can be safely assumed that most people will rattle off a list of the usual things that everyone is generally thankful for, such as family, a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, clean air to breathe, their health, and the appropriate things that every human being should be thankful to have in their lives. I, too, am thankful for these things, but I also believe we sometimes overlook the little things that make life bearable when our families act like a genetic experiment on monkeys gone haywire, the roof is leaking, finding lettuce worms in our Big Macs, driving behind a diesel engine Mercedes, and walking pneumonia in July creep in to ruin it all. Because as we all know, even the things that bring us thankfulness and gratitude sometimes just don’t live up to our ideal expectations. Where can you find something to be grateful for when everything hits the pothole in the road of life?
I think back to about eight or nine years ago when this guy would call me on the telephone late at night and beg me for my unwashed panties. He did everything to get me to send him my dirty underwear, even offering up to $40.00 a pair if I would mail them to him. Now, I find this completely perverted and, at the very least, strange, but I have to be grateful to that strange man. I was stressing over these bizarre telephone calls and generally fearing that he might show up at my home and do heinous things to me over my panties, so I was relating these fears and worries to a new friend who I had met at a former magazine where I was a writer. The person who sat there and listened to my tale of “the guy that wanted to buy my panties” is now my best friend. She will quickly tell anyone that the reason she knew we would be fast friends was because she didn’t know of anyone else who had strange people gravitate to them like she did until she heard my story of the “panty guy.” So I am grateful to “panty guy,” because if it hadn’t been for him, I probably wouldn’t have such a cool best friend right now. “Panty guy,” wherever you are now….thank you!
Then there’s palmetto bugs. How can anyone be thankful for palmetto bugs? Palmetto bugs make me laugh. I have to be thankful for anything that makes laughter roll out of my belly so easily as do palmetto bugs. This has not always been the case, mind you. They have only made me laugh since last summer, when I had a parade of Collective Soul fans in and out of my house all summer as we made road trips all over the state for the band’s concerts. One morning, between shows in Tampa and Fort Myers, we all dragged out of bed and made weary attempts to get dressed and back on the road so that we could make soundcheck in the next city. My friend Melissa is deathly afraid of bugs… any bugs. We’re not talking getting a little shiver or gasping when she sees a bug. We’re talking shrieking, convulsing, blood-curdling fear here, folks. Fear that is beyond normal. Fear that should require psychiatric help. We were all quietly putting on our shoes when, all of a sudden, Melissa jumps about 30 feet in the air and begins screaming as if someone had just killed her mother. She ran across the room and was huddling in a corner, whimpering and sobbing in a half-fetal position. My other friend, Nicole, and I looked at each other and instantly knew what had happened. A bug.
Apparently, the mother of all palmetto bugs had taken up residence in Melissa the Bug Hater’s tennis shoe during the night. As she went to put on her shoes the next morning, Queen Palmetto was startled from her new home and ran harry-carry up Melissa’s leg to escape. I quickly ran and got the can of Raid from under the kitchen sink, and Nicole and I hung over the back of the loveseat (where we had cornered Queen Palmetto) and promptly drowned the bug in the poison. Melissa still cowered and sobbed in the corner as we gave her play-by-plays of the drowning death of the bug. When we were thoroughly convinced that the bug was dead, we persuaded Melissa to come out of the corner and look for herself that the giant bug was, indeed, deceased. Damn that bug, because just as she peered over the loveseat at the bug laying on its back, it gave a little death twitch and sent her screaming back into the corner again. So, I thank palmetto bugs for the memory and the fact that I end up in tears from laughing so hard at the whole incident. Thank you, Queen of Palmetto Bugs, may you rest in peace!
I am also thankful for go-carts and bubble machines. My older son still has vivid memories of what it is like to have a father and some of the times he spent with his father before his early death at 29 years old, but my youngest son was still a baby when his dad died and has no memories to remind him of what it is like to have a “man’s” attention. There are no grandfathers or uncles to speak of to fill in the “man time” for my sons. Both boys, from the death of their father, have been surrounded by myself and my mother and the gaggle of sisters (their aunts) that make up our small immediate family, so even the tiniest bit of attention from a man, any man, is rare and wonderful experience, especially for my youngest. About five years ago, my youngest son and I made a trip to Orlando with a local rock band for a show they were playing at the Hard Rock Cafe. The day after the show, we woke up and went to breakfast with Jeremy, the lead singer of the band, and then we began to make the trip back to Tampa. Jeremy decided that we should spend the day just hanging out in Orlando because he wanted to go to Race Rock and it didn’t open until 4 PM. So we went to the Outlet Mall and found bubble machines for sale in the toy store and bought a couple. We then spent a big portion of the day driving down International Drive shooting millions of bubbles onto unsuspecting tourists’ cars that would send them sailing onto sidewalks and into lanes of oncoming traffic. Then my son spied a go-cart track and begged to go. I knew he was too young to be driving a go-cart, but he begged and pleaded and Jeremy agreed to take him on the go-carts. I can still see the look of joy and happiness on my son’s face as they flew around the go-cart track that day. Jeremy is now one of my very best friends, as well. My sons thinks the sun rises and sets on him, too… and all it took was spending a few hours having a little innocent fun with an eight-year-old. I don’t think any of us realize how much we can touch a person’s life with simply little acts of kindness. I don’t think Jeremy intended to make such an impact on my son’s life like he did, but strangely enough, he did. I’m thankful that my son has one memory of “hanging out with the guys,” and I’m thankful for the person that gave it him.
I guess the point I’m trying to make here is this: We can all say we are thankful for the friends and people who come and go and sometimes stay in our lives, but I am, also, thankful for the things and moments that bring them into our lives. The people are what is most important, for sure, but what about the circumstances and events that surround them and how they came to be so important to us. The moments, the time, the feelings that were felt to make that binding happen between us all. I am thankful for these things, right down to dirty underwear, palmetto bugs, go-carts, and bubble machines, and that’s not even mentioning French knots in embroidery, water bras, Donny Osmond, paintballs, and cemeteries, to name just a few. I am thankful for my friends and the times and moments that made them my friends.