I have no clue how to make a friend and never did. There’s something in the Bible about it, but I doubt anyone would give me a rib and if they did, what would I ever do with it? Obviously, Mary Shelley had better luck than I’d ever have, and her outcome wasn’t exactly perfect.
As a pre-teen, I read books on making friends such as How to Make Friends and Influence People. It didn’t help. As a small child, I was shy and I didn’t grow up in a neighborhood of houses packed on a few acres, so a friend might be a mile or more away. Most of my closest neighbors were boys. I soon learned if I wanted to play with them, I had to be good at sports. I learned to throw a baseball. I could put that ball anyplace I wanted it. My dad even taught me how to throw a knuckle ball. Now I had value to those boys. On the flip side, I couldn’t hit a ball with a bat to save my soul. It’s one thing to throw a round missile and another to have it hurling at me! But a good pitcher was valuable, so I was allowed to play.
Those boys also teased me. I soon got over being shy and learned to stand up for myself. I had learned to trust them and they betrayed me. Looking back, they were practicing that boy/girl relationship stuff on me. I also got bored with their nonsense and eventually pulled away from them. I was maturing and they weren’t keeping at the same pace. I had one really good female friend and that was it.
I buried myself in my schoolwork and into books. Books had always been my friends. They carried me away on great adventures, allowed me to slip through time, wrapped me in gorgeous gowns, and taught me that men could kiss without worrying about what to do with their hands. My little make-believe world was what kept me company. I had no idea what an active muse was or what it meant. But I’d read enough to know that imaginary playmates went away as children aged. Mine didn’t and I didn’t know why. They just grew up with me.
What I did learn along the way was to be nice to everyone. The truth is, I don’t think we actually make friends. They just happen. You have to have things that bind you together, common interests, etc. So over the years, we make friends sometimes only because there’s the one thing that tosses us together. That list is long – PTA, work, or whatever – and when that “thing” is over, the friendship slides away, because we are busy doing other things.
I got an email the other day about my River City books. The person said they had made friends with the characters as if they really existed. I understand that because I created them. They are the grownup version of imaginary playmates, and I get to “play” with them as I write. So maybe I don’t need a rib or Gene McDaniels’ 100 Pounds of Clay. I just need to write the next book.