Cheeto and I did a major Story Shack purge yesterday. Actually, I did the purging while Cheeto stared at me with mild curiosity from his nap chair. I threw out old projects I’ll never work on again and back issues of magazines I’ll never read again. I gathered up all the drafts of my second book for a not-so-ceremonial burning. I swept and Swiffered and opened an air freshener. I replaced the cloth-covered storage bins that Cheeto has clawed to pieces and bought him a scratch pad in hopes of distracting him from my lovely new storage bins, fresh from Target. I still need to dust, but once that’s done, the Shack will be ready to start on a new book.
The second one, which is called Almost Home, was so much harder than the first, in part because I was trying to capture the kind of relationship I had with my sister-friend Missey. The book isn’t about us—it’s set during World War II—and the characters Anna and Daisy aren’t by any means supposed to be us. But the particular brand of friendship they share—the kind where you can read each other’s mind, talk each other off any ledge, and call each other out on your respective nonsense, knowing it won’t damage the friendship one bit—that’s what I tried to get at. And that’s why I dedicated the book to Missey.
Working on Almost Home has made me think a lot about the nature of friendship, how we can experience it at all different levels. I have a circle of high school friends whom I treasure. Those women are special to me because we came through girlhood together—all the giggle-fed sleepovers and heartbreaks over cute boys and proms and dances and will-I-have-a-date hand-wringing. We knew each other when, so we understand each other now in a way that nobody else ever will. I have friends from college whom I’m equally close to but for different reasons. We were on our own together for the first time—making our first home, even if it was just a sparse apartment with shag carpet and a recycled grocery-store bread rack for an entertainment center. (Wouldn't have had that without you, Ging:) And we were there for each other when family seemed far away. As an adult, I’ve made friends who have weathered the grown-up stuff together, some of it thrilling, some of it heartbreaking.
I’ve always been blessed with the kind of family who allowed me to take their love for granted because it was so evident and so freely given. But my friends—they don’t have to love me. I’m so thankful that they do. And I hope I’ve given back as much as I’ve received.