In Need of a Friend



I moved from Washington, DC, to Salem, Oregon, during the summer of 1979.  My husband, Bill, had finished his commitment with the US Navy and found a job in the state that he fell in love with during his college years. I was so naively “up” for this 2,700-mile moving adventure, I thought little about what I was leaving behind, which happened to be my entire biological family in New England, including the maternal grandparents of my one-year-old daughter, Emily, plus friends and a support group in DC.  We said “adios” to everyone, and our little family, our dog, and my youthful ignorance piled into our Plymouth Volare and headed west.

When you move from a crowded big city to wide-open spaces, it’s only natural to want land, right? So, lucky us, we found a nice home on acreage about seven miles outside of Salem with only one visible neighbor.  The adventures continued through that summer – we enjoyed working around our new house, exploring sights around town, and taking day trips to the Oregon coast . . . then fall arrived.  Mountains of pumpkins arrived daily at the cannery down the road, the smell of wood burning stoves filled the Willamette Valley air, and the stuff Oregon is famous for began to fall. The rains came and with them dark clouds also began forming in my personal life.

I had no friends. Other than my husband, my daughter, my dog, and our realtor, I did not feel connected to anyone. Our one neighbor was a single woman who worked full time. We never saw her. There were no sidewalks out in the country where I could take my daughter for walks to get to know those far-away neighbors. I did meet other moms and babies at toddler activities around town, but they were not shopping for new friends and didn’t adopt us.

At 27 years of age, I began learning how important it is to have a network of people close by who KNOW you? I longed for people to interact with, to share a meal with, to gripe with, or to just run into on an errand about town. Our happy little family was kind of anonymous in the very “lived-here-forever” town of Salem. Mostly, though, I needed a best girlfriend.

We managed to meet some of our neighbors that first year, and without exception, they were “salt of the earth” type people, so kind and good. These wise women sensed right away that I needed a social life, and began inviting me to different activities that they attended. By the time those pumpkins were showing up at the local cannery the next year, I had joined a weekly bible study, which also had a children’s program for Emily. It was there that I met my dear friend of the last thirty-one years, Dixie.

Sharing intimate feelings about God’s word is a perfect way to get to the heart of a person. Dixie and I began visiting a bit after class, and monthly luncheons gave us more time to get to know each other.  I got my best girlfriend by the time we finished our study that year.

Dixie has helped me laugh when I took life too seriously; she’s helped me understand my children and my husband; she has listened with great interest to every story I’ve shared; and she has encouraged me in every endeavor.  This three-decade friendship is one of the greatest gifts of my life and even though we live in separate towns now, the closeness continues.

This experience of making connections in a new town helped me understand what my daughter, Elizabeth, was going through when she moved with her husband and one-year-old to Seattle last December. Now, I’m praying that there is another “Dixie” out there for her.

Category: Life-Story Writing Class 3 comments »

3 Responses to “In Need of a Friend”

  1. Jade Diaz

    Wonderful story Sue. I was nervous the whole time that this was going to be a eulogy for Dixie. In the end, your poignant words and hopes for Biz still made tear up, even mixed with the relief you hadn’t lost your best friend.

    Were you hoping to evoke a certain emotional response in your readers? One thing I’ve noticed, and remember mentioning once to Em, is that I can’t seem to read anything you write without having a strong emotional response! You definitely have a way with words.

    I look forward to reading more of your work!

  2. sue

    A writer – even a rookie – loves keeping readers nervous. Thanks for checking in on the blog. You are such a supportive friend. Give our best to your HUSBAND – so weird saying that, yet so wonderful at the same time :)

  3. emilee

    I couldn’t agree more with Jade— you have a way with words Sue!!! So glad you share them all with us. Love you!

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