In my own shoes: Back when a friendship was face to face

In my own shoes: Back when a friendship was face to face

The Westerly Sun

Facebook: I just don't get it. I guess I'm thick, or maybe I've just had one too many birthdays. While I don't deny anyone's right to dabble in social media, I'm just saying that for me, it doesn't make sense.

I mean, with Facebook you're supposed to go online and "friend" someone.  It doesn't matter whether or not you like the person … heck, in many cases people don't even know the people they’re "friending." Instead it seems to be some sort of competitive activity in which people see how many people they can "friend," and those who have been "friended" the most are thereby anointed the most popular. Then you can send them a picture of your lunch while you’re eating it. Lovely. Like I said, I don't get it.

Years ago, when you had a friend, you knew that person. Really knew him or her. You liked that person. You went out in the street and played ball with that person. You told each other your deepest, darkest secrets. You even fought with that person from time to time because making up was always the most fun and usually took place over a chocolate soda or some other treat.

That person for me was Marti.  Her real name was Margaret; but she hated it, so the world knew her as Marti. We spent hours talking about absolutely everything, which now in adult retrospect, was absolutely nothing. We'd talk about the future, about our teenage angst, about boys — most of whom were responsible for our teenage angst — and about our likes, dislikes, fears, and hopes.  And within an hour of leaving each other, we'd be on the phone again, "catching up."  I'm not sure how much catching up we needed to do over those lost 60 minutes, but somehow we found topics heretofore untouched to grab our attention.

That's how relationships were years ago: simple, real, and based on a genuine caring for, and sharing with, each other. If you had a good friend, and that friend needed you at 3 o'clock in the morning, by God, you'd be there. No questions asked. Pretty hard to do that in cyberspace.

Little kids were always the best at cementing friendships. They’d meet for the first time, one kid would grab another's toy. The other cherub would punch him in the arm or bite him. Then they'd fall to the ground laughing, go share a popsicle together, and voila, a lifelong friendship was formed. Sometimes it involved a clubhouse, a secret handshake, a password, and heaven forbid, you might even have pricked your fingers and mixed your blood, solidified by a secret oath. Can you see that today? The parents would call in a HazMat unit!

My friend Marti is still one of my closest friends, even though we live 196 miles apart and see one another infrequently. While we now keep our blood to ourselves, our memories, our experiences, and our laughter are still comingled. Marti is such a good friend that I just know if I happened to lose my bearings one night and shoot my husband, Marti would no doubt say to the police, "Wasn't it clumsy of Dave to get in front of the gun?"

Yup. That's friendship, pure and simple. That's how it was, and that's why it lasted. It was deep. It was real. And it stood the test of time because we put a real face on it.

In tribute to Gloria

I could not submit a column this Sunday without noting the date ... Jan. 28.  It has been exactly one year since my cherished friend, Gloria Russell, died.

It is selfish of me to say “my” cherished friend because in retrospect, Gloria belonged to so many … and she belonged to no one. She was her own woman, a kind of Renaissance woman way ahead of her generation. Gloria happily and naughtily broke rules without giving them a second thought, enjoyed her Jack Daniels with gusto while other ladies dantily ordered pink drinks with parasols in them, and she forged her own path in the journalistic world at a time when women just didn’t do that. She loved this area and the people with whom she shared it, but had no trouble calling them out if she felt it were deserved.

This space will always belong to Gloria Russell. I’m just renting it … and proud to do so.

Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 16 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She has written three books: one about the towns and villages in our area, one about growing up in the ’50s, and one that recounts untold veterans’ stories from World War II to the present. She can be reached at or 401-539-7762.


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