on women friends and town criers

For one who spent her first 20 years alienated from all but one woman (who died at the halfway mark and left me bereft), and who has mostly been befuddled by some 80+-odd percent of the adult women I’ve known well ever since (yes, at several points in time I actually did the math), the last few weeks have been studded with little gifts in the real world from 1) women I know only via Facebook; and 2) women I met briefly long ago but would not still have been in touch with, were it not for that particular social media space.

Fuzzy socks still too pretty to wear, a hardcover book by one of my favorite living authors, a lovely handwritten note with a photocopied poem inside that, I kid you not, spoke to the day on which it arrived better than any words I could’ve known how to think much less say (oh, how necessary it is to “praise the mutilated world”), and then today an extraordinarily good batch of homemade chocolate truffles with hand-selected photos of my husband tucked inside the box (he got the truffles, I got the photos!). I know better than to tag most people on Facebook anymore—having been asked not to do so by a few acquaintances who are uncomfortable with the content of some of my posts and worried about being associated with one so outspoken and unrepentant about it to boot—so I am writing to each of these dear women individually: actually writing, with a pen on paper that I’ll fold and place inside an envelope and settle with a stamp prior to sending the message of gratitude on its way.

Letter writing is an act of soul in my firmament, and I mull and reflect on each one for days, sometimes weeks: I love the feel of the pen and the smell of the paper and the effort to get sentences to carry those feelings and sensations and more besides. The arrival of their unexpected gifts shocked and delighted me, has done so for every day since each came, but the opportunity to write letters in return? Now that’s a genuine grace for someone of my yearnings and character.

Sometimes I don’t fit in the world at all, and I’ve always considered that a good thing, given certain aspects of the world into which I refuse to fit. Then beautiful, unprecedented things like these happen, and I’m reminded that everybody fits somewhere at some point, and it’s so much fun when it rolls in that one just must carry on, chin up, head unbowed, no matter how flat-face down in all-out muck one might presently be.

Moments ago, however, came the icing on this many-layered friend-fest cake: I got the neatest email, from yet another woman whom I admire greatly and would love to get to know better, and she said something quite remarkable and so soothing to the me that was stuck in yet another mid-mull on why it is so common for adult women friends to vanish without even a word down through the years and telling myself to write anyway to these who are reaching out to me now and not to hope for one thing more beyond this exact moment, and then I read her words: “Thank you so much for being such a great town crier. I appreciate it more than you will ever know.” And the last few vanishings suddenly slipped into a much wider horizon, one that holds a full life in its maw, and laughter pinned my sorrows and joys and all the losses to their seats, and I’m now going back to mulling my letters, refreshed and pleased and fully awake, for the historian in me knows very little most days about how the world works anymore, but town criers? The ones who insist on exercising their voices in public, even if it means some people leave with a frown (if that) and nary a word?

Without town criers, the people perish. No one has ever called me such a thing before. Mensch, knucklehead, troublemaker, yes, of course, all of which I embrace (for all are much needed, today as ever), but town crier? That’s a new one, and I intend to take especial delight in it for some time hence. I am so grateful for my women friends, each and every one a town crier herself. My, but how fortunate I am to know them!



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