Melon Thumping

I received an email from my mother this morning which is always a bizarre sort of literary adventure. My mother, the librarian, writes lengthy run on sentences, ignores punctuation, has no idea how to spell or utilize the spell-check feature and jumps quite randomly from one subject to another and then back again (I love you, mom!). This letter was no different. She discussed the weather (cold), my dad (work), my brother (sick), Africa mission team updates complete with anecdote about chickens and goats (knife of homesickness is now plunged deeper into my chest), her activities (quilting, etc.), blah … blah … blah. All of this punctuated quite firmly by: “You need friends. Love, MOM.”


I want to take offense to that statement. I want to feel indignant. I want to lash out with prickly thorns of defense. I want to climb upon my desk and, to the utter astonishment of my coworkers, scream (I don’t scream.) yell to the heavens and, well, to no one in particular, “I HAVE FRIENDS!!!”

It is not untrue. You see, I do have friends. The problem lies in the undeniable fact that those friends that mean the most to me … those that I would honestly lie down and die for … those who are not afraid to tell me I’m behaving like an ass … those that I will always love whole-heartedly for the rest of my days … those very few individuals are scattered, quite literally, to all four corners of this great bluish orb we call Earth. This is part and parcel of the whole missionary/third culture kid gig. We grow up together. We understand one another. We attend boarding school together for nine months of every year. Here, separated from our respective parental units, we learn to trust one another and lean on each other for … well, everything. And then, abruptly, we are uprooted from one another (often again and again and again), tossed across every continent (Antarctica excluded) and expected to plant new seeds and cultivate new friendships … all in foreign (unfamiliar to us) soil.

I am not implying that I have made absolutely no friends in the fifteen (plus) years since I graduated from high school. That would be pitiful, indeed. I have and they are very dear to me. But, there will always be something a little bit stronger tying me to those from my childhood and adolescent years. Incidentally, even my closest friends post-1992 are now scattered about quite randomly. The point, here, is that I do have friendships. But, not one of my “I will do anything for you” friends lives within a thousand miles of me. Courtesy of advancements in technology, they are all virtually closer to me now than they were a few years ago (email, Skype, Facebook, etc.), but it is not the same as being together.

For all my talk and over-the-top extroverted nature, I am incredibly reserved when it comes to truly letting someone into my soul. On the surface, I make friends quickly. I have a lot of acquaintances. I am, for the most part, a highly likeable individual. I never pretend to be something I am not. What you see is what you get. Getting to know me, though, takes effort. One must really want to pull back the layers of who I am in order to gain my trust and, ultimately, my true friendship. My experience has been that most individuals in the society of which I reside (Americans) are far too lazy. They don’t really want to get to know me. Most are content, in passing, to utter a “how are you doing but answer me really quickly so I can get on with my own life” greeting. This is, of course, a judgmental generalization. I mean no blatant offense and I do have hope that I will be proven wrong.

“Friends are like melons; shall I tell you why? To find one good you must one hundred try.” ~Claude Mermet

So, when my mother tells me, “You need friends,” she is really telling me that I need friends who are local. I need friends that I can hang out with in person, talk to face-to-face or go to when I am in need. In that respect, she is right. Do you hear that, mom? You are right!

This is where I am … thumping the melons of my acquaintance in search of true friendship. I may have thumped a few a wee bit too hard. Still, one or two of these, somewhere along the way, is bound to be good. Right?


  1. You know best of course, but is that what your mother means when she says "You need friends?" Local ones?

    We have many needs of course, as Maslow so neatly and famously diagrammatized.

    To me it seems like a woman-thing, to have local friends, with whom to meet up and compare notes about the daily scene: faces, bodies, clothes, merchandise. There are men of course who like the same topics and I suppose not all are gay.

    As a representative of the lone-male-philosopher type (a mini-Nietzsche, you might say) I've not had gossip-friends because I never wanted to discuss cars, sport, music or women. But like you, I find the friends of old are scattered: perhaps not across the globe so much but I'd be lucky to find one within walking or bus-distance. (I know, cars exist, and I have one. But like the mobile phone, I think of it as an emergency thing.)

    But where would I be without the real, non-virtual presence of my beloved?

    Beth, there is more to this notion of "local friends" than meets the eye, methinks.

  2. I'm sorry to keep commenting, but after your last post really caught my attention, I am now reading your posts more carefully.

    This post really jumped out at me. The ditto feeling. It hits home much more than the last post. I am basically a very happy person and feel motivated, usually get up at early because I am excited about living and doing my thing.

    But when you talk about friends all over the world, I've got that problem bad! I'm just the opposite of you. Shy up front, but just give me a sliver of a chance and you get the whole thing (which I will try my best not to make your problem with to many blog comments.)

    RVA friends (or even non friends - if someone lied convincingly to me and told me they were in my class at school, I would probably still embrace them as a friend, so strong were those ties to me.) RVA friends count in Namibia: 0. Friends I studied Nature Conservations with that are in Namibia: 0 (there are some from later years, but that doesn't count.)

    Then I moved to Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge and lived in the desert for seven years. Loved it. But my wife can attest, my number one complaint was the dispersal problem of my friends. I don't try to make new friends now. I have, through birding, but we watch birds, talk birds and go our separate ways.

    Actually, you know (not aimed at Vincent)I LOVE to talk to guys about cars, sports (or fitness in my case) music (my wife does just great there,) and woman. And the bush, lions, elephants, snakes and Africa and it's state of affairs...

    I have learned to abuse tourists as temporary friends a little (potential guests, be warned.) At times someone you guide for days becomes a long term friend. But then they go off again, like the rest, across the world!

    Sorry that my link says the words "poo-ponds" on your blog when we are talking serious things. I am going to a meeting about a proposed desalination plant this after noon and will post something about that, some time in the middle of the night when I can't you.

    Keep well Beth.

    Where is Chuck Haspels? Didn't he find out about emails and facebook and stuff like that? Does he still scribble on rocks?

  3. Please ... no apologies for comments! That is what the box is here for.

    Vincent ~ It is possible that she means more. I, however, have never done well with your definition of the female relationship. I don't talk makeup and clothes, etc. Those topics bore me. I get on much better with my male friends.

    Vernon ~ Yes, those from RVA I am bound to do just about anything for. I did the tour guide thing one summer in Kenya. It was the single best summer of my life. I, too, abused the tourists as temporary friends. :o) Sending you Facebook message concerning Haspels.

  4. Ugh! What am I? Chopped sooie! I think I will go cry now (points finger at Beth to scold her). ~B.M.


"Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?" ~Walt Whitman


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