I was not a cheerful person. I was a quiet kid. I was lonely. Friends were hard to come by. Good friends were a myth. I sat in my bedroom eating a lot of peanut butter.

It’s late. I am staying at a small inn. There is a wedding rehearsal dinner in the courtyard outside my room window. It’s a big shindig. There is a loud band. A crowd. Laughter. Twinkling lights.

I am eating peanut butter from a jar, watching the whole thing through my window.

The party band is playing “Benny and the Jets.”

It is 10:21 P.M.

The people in the wedding party are dressed snazzy. Men wear Sunday clothes. Ladies look like they’re ready for prom.

Everyone sips red wine from tall glasses in a sophisticated way which tells me they are not sipping Boone’s Farm Blue Hawaiian. I’ll bet it’s expensive wine.

I am in my bathrobe, standing by the window, sampling a fine vintage Smucker’s Crunchy Natural. Light bodied, with piquant overtones of Dothan.

I am a well-noted peanut butter lover. I eat several jars per week. The day before my wedding, my friends pitched in and bought me Sam’s Club gallon barrels of JIF. They wrapped them in red ribbons and attached notecards.

My friend Bobby wrote: “This should last you a few days.”

The party band is playing an encore of “Benny and the Jets.” People are dancing. Friends, family, and happy people.

It’s hard not to smile. Because there is nothing more holy than friendship. Not to me. I grew up in a broken home. My friends were, are, and always will be the closest family I have ever had.

For example, earlier today I had lunch with one such friend. Her heart is gold, and she has the audacity to believe in me. She has believed since I first met her, not long ago.

You don’t forget people who believe in you, not for a hundred years. They don’t even have to say anything sentimental to tell you how they feel. All they have to do is give you a kind look. One look. And you’re family.

My friend and I ate Lebanese food, we talked, we laughed. And when the meal was over, my life was fifty percent richer than it was yesterday.

And just last night, in Pensacola I celebrated the fiftieth birthday of my friend, Steve.

Fifty might seem middle-aged, but not when you’re talking about Steve. He may be fifty, but he has the body of a forty-nine-year-old.

It was a surprise party. We all arrived at a fancy restaurant. When Steve walked through the door, we shouted “Happy birthday!” Then sang to him.

He didn’t even crack a smile. Because Steve does not smile. Not even on his birthday.

We ordered oysters, pork, Wagyu beef, ahi tuna, lobster, lamb lollipops, crème brûlée, and homemade blueberry ice cream. We laughed, we shouted over each other’s voices, we slapped each other’s backs. Because friends do that.

We stayed until closing time. And it was more fun than I’ve had in a long time.

The band just finished playing “Bad Bad Leroy Brown.” Now they’re replaying “Benny and the Jets.”

When I was younger, I used to feel like life was a chore—I’m ashamed to admit that. I didn’t grow up exceedingly happy.

The first half of my life was painted with grief from a father’s death. The second half was ruined by repeatedly blowing the SEC Championship.

I was not a cheerful person. I was a quiet kid. I was lonely. Friends were hard to come by. Good friends were a myth. I sat in my bedroom eating a lot of peanut butter.

But at this stage of life, I understand things a little better. And I wish I could tell that lonely kid something. I would tell him that no matter how bad things get, dark things in life can be suffocated by hugs. And friends.

And who knows? Maybe one day, after enough hugs, you might find yourself all grown up, wearing a bathrobe, eating peanut butter. You’re sleepy, but you’re overlooking a courtyard, watching a loud band play. The people dance, sing, holler, and it’s perfect.

And you’re reminded of friends who once gathered around an awkward redhead the day before his wedding, who fuzzed his hair, who gave him gallon jugs of JIF for a joke.

Something like that changes a man.

Outside my window, I can see the groom. I can see the bride. They have their whole lives ahead of them. Their friends are embracing them, kissing their cheeks, and giving them that look.

It’s a look that says, “No matter what, you’re family to me.” A look that says, “I will be here for you.”

And more than that, their look says, “This loud music is not going to end until after 1:00 A.M.”

18 comments

  1. Karen - May 11, 2019 10:16 am

    I did not discover the gift of true friendship until I was much older. The value of an authentic friend is priceless. Thank you

    Reply
  2. NoName, please. - May 11, 2019 11:01 am

    The one person that I thought I could trust let me down. I have no friends. Sad, but true. But I do have a rather large knife wound in my back.

    Reply
  3. turtlekid - May 11, 2019 11:48 am

    Some of us are late bloomers, but with patience, persistence, and prayer, life does get better. Life can be tough, but our Heavenly Father watches over us, and helps us as we stumble along to find our niche in the world.i love crunch peanut butter too. That is another “p” word we all need! 🙂🙂🙂

    Reply
  4. Carol Heidbreder - May 11, 2019 12:21 pm

    I agree with Karen. Authentic friends are usually very few in number but very very high in quality. They are not a crowd that everyday surrounds you making every day a party. But appear like a magnet when you need them. They are golden. And I prefer the smooth jif with honey spread on apple quarters. Granny Smith’s or the red honey crisps. 😊

    Reply
  5. Jack Darnell - May 11, 2019 1:15 pm

    I am a lover of friends, especially ‘family’ that are friends. I am not a lover of loud music or late parties, age does that to you. But AGE doesen’t make you forget friends. BUT sadly age does take your friends. ENJOY my friend, I am sure you do!
    We hope to see you one day,
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  6. Shelton A. - May 11, 2019 1:33 pm

    There is no value that can be put on good friends. I use peanut butter to give my dog her medicine-it’s the perfect disguise (but I think she’s starting to catch on). God bless our good friends.

    Reply
  7. Cathy M - May 11, 2019 1:46 pm

    I think that there are three things that are the most important in a persons life. Faith,Family and Friends. If you take care of those three things , your life will be in order. My family went through a rough time last yr. my youngest grandchild was in the hospital for a total of twelve weeks. Heart surgery and complications that were life threatening. Lots of hard days. He survived and is a joy to all who know him. When I reflect on that time , I know that faith, family and friends walked us through that hard time.and a lot of great Doctors and nurses. To have friends you have to be a friend. It requires being there when a friend needs you. I got a message from a close friend yesterday thanking me for attending her brothers funeral which was several months ago. I responded that you only have one chance to attend a funeral and the person you went for won’t ever forget your presence. I am blessed with several really good friends . I love them all and they know it. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers who read your messages. You inspire all who follow you. ❤️🙏🏻🌷

    Reply
  8. Myra G. - May 11, 2019 3:21 pm

    Oh my, this resonates. There are old photos of this reader consuming spoonsful of JIF extra-crunchy in hotel rooms from Greece to Ft. Worth. Once — on the occasion of me leaving one workplace for another — my lunch-bunch girlfriends presented with with an oversize lavishly-decorated box. I started to grow emotional, then opened it to reveal one of those gallon barrels of JIF.
    Thank you for being a friend!

    Reply
  9. Linda Moon - May 11, 2019 3:40 pm

    Dark Chocolatey Dreams, White Chocolatey Wonderful from Peanut Butter & Co.
    and “Benny And The Jets”…..these are a few of my favorite things. Try these PBs, Sean!

    Reply
  10. Connie Havard Ryland - May 11, 2019 3:44 pm

    I’ve met you twice and been the recipient of your hugs. You don’t know how you miss hugs until you get a good one. Thank you for being a friend to us all and sharing your view of the world. Makes my day better. It took me years before I discovered that friends are there for you when family is not.

    Reply
  11. Edna B. - May 11, 2019 4:49 pm

    You’re blessed. You have more friends than most people. Even thought you’ve never met most of them. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  12. Joe Patterson - May 11, 2019 5:12 pm

    Thanks

    Reply
  13. Carol - May 11, 2019 5:27 pm

    I believe in you !!
    I hope that makes me one of your hundreds, thousands of friends that you’ve never met , but wish they could meet you for just awhile and know that we’ll be friends for a lifetime!!
    Love ya!

    Reply
  14. Robert Chiles - May 12, 2019 12:08 am

    We were so poor when we got married 44 years ago that we had a covered dish reception. All we provided was Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and smoked oysters. I guess it took, cause we’re still together. And we still like smoked oysters.

    Reply
  15. Charaleen Wright - May 12, 2019 3:28 am

    Reply
  16. Patsy Richey - May 12, 2019 5:38 pm

    You would be surprised at how very many people believe in you!

    Reply
  17. DDC - May 13, 2019 1:57 pm

    Ooohh the artwork is getting fancy!! JK, I enjoy the morning reads!

    Reply
  18. Janet Mary Lee - May 15, 2019 7:56 pm

    Yes!! Love the special artwork and love the crunchy Jiff!! I love what friends do! Sometimes they just are family!!

    Reply

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