As the digital archivist here at the Jewish Women’s Archive, my duties include cataloging our multitudes of oral histories that have been recorded over the past 13 years. Each woman featured in our collection of oral histories has a story to tell; some stories are astounding, others capture the essence of a generation, but mostly they are beautiful and touching stories that resonate.
For this month's podcast I'd like to share two stories in honor of Valentine's Day. No, not stories about true love or a love lost, but about the sort of love that few people over the age of 10 recognizes as worthy of celebration every February 14th - the love between friends. Growing up, I looked forward to Valentine's Day because it was a day that I could show my dearest friends and even those not so dear to me that I loved them without being "that kid." I would bring carnations and cake to school and pass them out at lunch, dressed in my favorite pink outfit (it was a sight to be seen, pink is really not my color).
The rest of the year was spent in near constant companionship with two other girls, and this past summer they were part of my wedding party. Now I live 3000 miles away from them and I miss them terribly. With all the technology that invades my day (and distracts
me) I might know that L has had the "best orange juice of her life" or that A's away message means she's on the clock at her new firm. Still, it doesn't make up for the miles between us.
In 60 years, I hope that I can look back and say as eloquently as our narrator Lois Blum Feinblatt of Baltimore said, "I have a sort of sickness, I guess, which is that when somebody is really in my life I never let 'em go, and so that people that have moved out of town or whatever has happened, I still keep in close touch with them. Sometimes it is pretty exhausting, but I love my friends."
Lois goes on to describe how her friends have acted as a mirror for her own self: her interests, desires and dreams. Before being interviewed in 2002, she had lost two husbands, and described her friendships with women and men as bringing a dimension to her life that wouldn't have been there otherwise.
Lois gives me hope that even when beyond romantic love, there is a more powerful and sometimes stronger platonic love between me and my dearest friends.
The second story of platonic love comes from another Baltimore narrator, Laurie Schwab Zabin. Zabin had a long career at Planned Parenthood, and on the faculty of Johns Hopkins Medical School in the field of reproductive health. In the audio clip (see above) she describes not only how friendship has shaped her widowhood, but also her family and career.
Happy Valentine's Day everyone, and make sure you call your friends!
Do you have a story about friendship? Let us know in the comments.