Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

Can I get a witness?

Filed in Stories :: August 15, 2010

IMG_0550In the course of the past week, I have attended two parties to celebrate the milestones of women friends.  The guests at both parties have known the honored women throughout nearly all their lives.

At the first, last Tuesday night in Columbia, SC, I was among the “old” friends gathered to celebrate Michelle’s 5th anniversary of breast cancer survivorship. I’ve known Michelle since 1977. There were jokes about wishing her a long and happy life with NED (No Evidence of Disease) by her side.

At the second, last Saturday night in Hollywood, FL, I was among the “new” friends celebrating Karen’s 50th birthday–I’ve only known Karen since 2006.  Karen introduced me to a table of friends she’s known since 7th grade, 10th grade, and so on.  She wished she could spread their visits over the year instead of having them all in one concentrated night.

Both Michelle and Karen were overwhelmed by the effort made by their friends and families to throw them great parties, and by everyone’s wishes for their continued health and happiness. Coincidentally, each woman received a dramatic gift along with many other tokens.

Michelle received a stunning pottery vase created years ago by her late mother.  Images of Michelle’s mother’s beautiful face, cast in plaster, circle the vase.

Karen received a tall totem pole, wheeled in by two men with a hand truck, carved from a Sabal palm.  The pole will decorate Karen’s lovingly tended tropical back yard.

The faces carved into the totem reminded me of the faces of Michelle’s vase–faces that symbolize the faces of family and friends who watch over us, giving our lives meaning.

At both parties I saw the place of friends in my life and my place in their lives.  At the Tuesday night party, I experienced a flood of memories and emotions of my own, events I thought I had forgotten.  At the Saturday night party, I met women who had traveled to Florida as I had traveled to South Carolina to express to our friends that they are important parts of our lives.  Through these experiences, I saw my own life and the lives of my friends just a little bit differently than I had even a week ago.

Friends, long-term women friends in particular, bear witness to our lives, and by doing so, add meaning.  As a memoir writer, I can get caught up in my own memories, forgetting that friends’ memories and mine are intertwined and illuminate one another.

Are there friends and memories that need a visit from you?

Filed in Stories


  1. Jeanne

    I consider bearing witness so important, an entire chapter of my thesis bore witness to bearing witness. Bearing witness leaves judgment outside. Bearing witness doesn’t try to fix anything – not a damn thing. Bearing witness is at the tiptop of my Best Gifts To Give And Get List.
    (Although might I say that your friends received some pretty awesome souvenirs! Seriously.)

  2. Square-Peg Karen

    Yes! Bearing witness or being a mirror for each other — to me it’s part of being seen and heard — and soooooo a part of the great weaving of life. All our bits and parts woven in with everyone else’s…
    Angela, this is such a great reminder of how interconnected we are. And what you said here: “As a memoir writer, I can get caught up in my own memories, forgetting that friends’ memories and mine are intertwined and illuminate one another.” I KNOW this is true for me too, as a writer — and I think it just might be true for everyone (writer or no). We ALL get into our own story and sometimes forget the whole picture.
    Thanks for this!

  3. Meredith

    I love that I can catch up on your life via your postings! Thank you for “re-minding” me how important girlfriends are on this journey! I’m so glad to hear about your travels and celebrations of late! Looking forward to catching up with you soon!! love,

  4. angela

    Karen and Jeanne, you have no idea how much I appreciate the witness you bear here all the time. Thank you for being such consistent readers and commenters. Just when I wonder if anybody’s out there, you appear.