Monday, January 21, 2013

A Portrait of Four Friendships

"My friend, if I could give you one thing I would give you the ability to see yourself as others see you. Then you would realize what a truly special person you are." ~Barbara A. Billings

Our About the Author series continues with Vicki McKeefery. She explains what inspired her story, "A Portrait of Four Friendships," and  talks about the glue that holds women together . . .  their friendships with other women.
Originally, the working title was “The Girls” because my grandmother called her group of friends “the girls.” It was obvious these women were far from “girls,” rather more akin to “oldies.”  My siblings and I thought it was hilarious. 
In my story, the four friends I write about have always been “the girls.” I now realize that the name represents more a state of mind than a chronological age.  We are not girls, yet I don’t feel like a senior citizen which is, however, exactly how the world sees me.  So, I permit myself this delusion. 
"The Girls"
Last year we celebrated forty years of friendship. We openly acknowledged how special it felt to have remained close for such a large part of our lives.  We began as colleagues, hired by the same school district to teach what was then known as Junior High school.  Over four decades we've stayed friends through a combination of luck - none of us moved too far from the original school district - and our determination to remain friends even as our lives expanded and took on new commitments.
I began my teaching career in 1971 on a team teaching World Cultures to 9th graders and U.S. History to 8th graders.  Although I wrote about the four of us, I can truly say that I met many amazing men and women and talented teachers in that school.  I went on to become a reading specialist.  Then I taught reading in a secondary private school before I was hired in a neighboring school district as an elementary school reading specialist.  Everywhere I went, I met dedicated and gifted teachers.
Reading to my two children as they grew, and working with reading during my career, I appreciate the power of the written word.  I can think of no higher honor than to write words that others feel are worth reading. 
 I am the history teacher narrator of my story.   For the last twenty years, my small nuclear family has had no extended family close by.  Consequently, these three women in the story became my family, pitching in to help in overwhelming situations and just being there to talk to in simple, everyday situations.  I wrote this story to honor our friendship and the support these women have given me, without which, my life would have been so much poorer and lonelier. 
I learned by writing this memoir piece that, ironically, it may be a sort of epitaph too.  “The Girls” have had forty years together, but change comes to everything and everyone.  We are no exception.  Another stage of life looms. Some of us will not stay in our present houses and may move closer to children who are in other states.  Some will move to retirement centers which will take them out of the area. 

“The Girls” may end, but I hope this simple portrait of four friendships will stand as homage to those people who walk beside us and share our experiences through the significant parts of our life.   

Vicki McKeefery graduated from Penn State with a bachelor's degree in Psychology and from Villanova University with a master's in American History.  She lives in Malvern, PA and works for the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester, coordinating their youth and family programs.  A teacher in public and private schools her whole career, she has taught every age group imaginable!

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