The value of a lasting and true friendship is priceless, bar none. Ruby Jean (a.k.a. Jean) has been a mainstay in my life since I was thirteen years old. We have shared many things during our 47-year old friendship. We have experienced our teens together, the trials and tribulations of family, the birth of her children, our marriages, the loss of our parents, our surgeries, the joy of getting older … and yes, the not-so-joyous aspects of getting older. Not all years have been good; however, we somehow withstood what life bestowed upon us and held on to the one thing that was always steadfast – our friendship.
Back in the 70’s … in The Plains of Virginia, I remember a car ride we were taking. Joe and Jean (Ruby) were in the front seat and I was being driven around by Joe through the “Beavers” country of this rural community. Jean was discussing her pregnancy (which was her first) and the topic of conversation was baby names. I asked if she had made a decision as of yet, and she said that if it was a girl she was going to name her Latisha. “Latisha, how do you spell it?” I asked. She replied, and I thought about it for a minute, and I said “That is a pretty name; I don’t think I have ever heard of it before.” She then stated, “Her middle name will be Marie, to be named after you.” There was a brief silence, and then all I heard (and felt) … was the big gulp in my throat.
I had never had anyone name anything after me before, much less a newborn baby. I was speechless for a moment, for her remark caught me totally by surprise. Our friendship was about in its’ sixth year and I loved her dearly, yet I don’t think it occurred to me that she thought our relationship was anything more than a casual friendship. She was a proud and very proper young lady. She did not go around displaying her affections openly, and was for the most part, a quiet soul with a sensitive heart. She stated her intentions regarding the baby’s name quite simply, and it was not talked about much after that. Throughout the years, it proved to be quite symbolic of our friendship. It’s the little things that I had to look out for … the unexpected one-liners, calls, emails or cards that got me. They get you in the gut, and come out through your heart.
Years passed, while the different chapters of our lives played out. More children were born, then grandchildren … all of which belonged to Jean. I could not have children. In my mind’s eye, I lived out my “imaginary” motherhood through Jean’s children, Latisha and Rachelle. I did not get to spend a lot of time with them in their growing years due to me living in Florida and them in Virginia. None the less, when I did get to see them, it was an exciting time. They now have children of their own. It is hard for me to grasp at times, because I still feel like that young 13-year old girl on a school bus in Virginia. Reality paints a different story and it still amazes me how quickly time passes you by.
I had the pleasure of spending time with Latisha and her family last evening. They are here in Florida for a week-long vacation. Tish (as I fondly call her), is now a woman in her thirties. She has a family of her own – a loving husband and three beautiful children. Latisha is the type of person that every woman would want as a daughter. I don’t know how she turned out the way she did, but I assure you that the world would be a much better place if there were more people like her living in it. She is a registered nurse, yet she elected to stay home with the children as they grow up. She has managed to raise a close family, with respectable children. I am so proud of her and all her accomplishments. My little girl has turned into this wonderful and gifted woman.
The last I saw the children was years ago, when the youngest was just a toddler. The eldest is a daughter, and the two youngest are boys. Julia, Isaac, and Jacob … the names say it all. Twelve years ago my Latisha advised me that she, too, was naming her first-born after me. This time, it was the entire name. Needless to say, Julia is special to me. But I must say, Isaac and Jacob are just as special in their own right. All different, just like my own brother and sister.
It is safe to say that this family has a bond with me that is like nothing I have felt before. Years and distance don’t seem to play a factor in this relationship. I am still young at heart, yet I know I am getting old in years. Time does not seem to diminish anything. Quite the contrary, it makes the friendship and love grow deeper. I don’t fully understand it, yet I know it exists.
The one thing that I do see that has changed over the years with my friendship with Ruby Jean is that I am more frank in my discussions with her. I don’t seem to watch my tongue or reserve much of my thoughts with her as I used to. I find that I am doing that with my own family as well. Is it because I am getting older? I do hear the clock ticking, and I strongly feel I don’t have the luxury of not being true to myself, or to others anymore. Maybe this is why we let older folks get away with saying or acting out the craziest of things. A younger person would not be able to get away with it. Maybe they are not so crazy … just maybe … they are wiser.
I found last evening to be so joyous. My feet were rapidly touching the floor as I tried to eat my dinner. I was so excited I could hardly refrain myself. Latisha was across from me, and Julia to the right of me. What was not to treasure? There is not much in this world that gets my heart pumping like it did last night. And what did it take? It took a casual dinner with some good friends to get re-acquainted with the “newer” generation.
During the evening, Tish and I spoke much of her mom, and my friend, Ruby Jean. We talked about how fast time goes by. My husband was sitting at the other end of the table and did not hear much of the conversation between me and Tish. As we were driving home, we relished in the moment and stated how enjoyable the evening was. He then stated something that blew me away, for I had just been talking about this very same thing with Tish earlier. He said, “The kids have really grown. You don’t see that type of a family dynamic anymore. People just don’t have it.” He paused with hesitation, and then said, “By looking at the kids, you realize … we are getting old.” It was bittersweet.
Rubies are invaluable, I know. They are deep in color, with the reddest of hues – much like a heart. I have never bought a Ruby, yet I possess one. You won’t find it around my neck, nor on my finger. Rather, it lives in my heart. My precious stone is called Ruby Jean. Her attributes are many, and her friendship is my crown jewel.