My friend Maria was also my hairdresser for about 15 years. She took my unruly, thin, fine hair and actually made it look good.
But that's not all she did for me - she has been my friend and confidante, my pal and giggle twin. She saw me through recovery from divorce and rejoiced with me in my happy second marriage. She had a bout with serious illness about 10 years ago and we prayed and laughed her through it.
We are about the same age and had similar upbringings, albeit in different countries. The nuns in her life succeeded in shaping her into a good woman, wife and mother - they despaired of me. We laugh at the same things and deplore the same things. We both love to eat - she has more of a sweet tooth than I, but not by much.
She retired about a year ago and I was afraid I might lose her. But I didn't - we are still good pals.
We get together every now and then, as often as our busy retired schedules allow, to catch up on each other's lives, to compare pictures of our grandchildren (hers are simply adorable and she has two more than I do), and to bask in the memories of a long friendship. We bring each other little presents sometimes, when we find things we know the other will enjoy. Last time we got together, she brought these because she knows I loved my Belgian vacation - she patiently viewed my zillions of photos when I returned.
Belgian Chocolate Thins. They are like Pringles potato chips in that they are shaped like those precise chips, neatly stacked together in a long, thin box, and they have a little crunch inside, as if the world's tiniest Rice Krispies were inside. They melt on the tongue, flooding the mouth with rich, sweet chocolate flavor. And just one or two is enough, as they pack a lot of chocolate punch into a small, light wafer.
I have been savoring this little gift for almost a month now, sometimes sharing with My Beloved or our parade of house guests, but mostly I just keep them for myself. Each time I take one out to enjoy it, I am also savoring the gift of a rich friendship.