A few years ago (okay, more than a few, actually), I met my friend Ms. D.  I’d give her a flower fairy name, but I’m not sure there’s a fairy splendid enough to represent Ms. D’s unique combination of beauty, brains, and heart.

But sometimes, friends get breast cancer.

Triple positive–that was her diagnosis.  Then followed the lumpectomy, the chemotherapy, the radiation.  That was six years ago.  She survived with a combination of excellent medical attention and a regular practice of imagining herself swallowing liquid sunlight. She’s been well now for five years, a cause for celebration. And her husband, name of Mr. J, a PRINCE of a guy, decided that the two of us needed to do something grand to mark the anniversary of her remission.

So he bought us tickets to Greece.

And thus we got on a plane yesterday. Landed in Athens today.  In a couple of days, we’ll head to the more remote island of Evia, where the tourists are few and the food and the ocean are said to be fine.  Who would have thought, all those years ago, that in 2017, we’d be winging our way to the Greek islands to greet the sun, hike through ruins, thread our way through street markets, and wade out into the Aegean together?

Surviving has its perks, doesn’t it?

Thank you, Ms. D, for living. Thank you, Mr. J, for allowing me to discover Greece with your wife. And thank you Eleven O’Clock Crew, for holding down the fort while I’m gone.

Tomorrow:  the Acropolis.

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No photo today.  In fact, that I know of, there may be only a small handful of photos of Miss Celandine and me together–ironic, considering how long and faithful and brilliant our friendship has been.  We met in graduate school, years ago.  We got on famously.  We still do.  I thought I’d talk about two big reasons Miss Celandine is a great favorite.

One.  She beat the rush, got on a plane, and came to Spain.  To see me.  She stayed for ten glorious days during which we hit up museums (MNAC! Picasso!), sampled gelato (Llet Merengada!), wandered the streets of Born, Gotic, and Eixample (Tous!), hiked every inch of Park Güell, braved the evening tapas crowds (yes, we survived Tapas 24 and have earned the right to tell the tale), and hopped a train to Tarragona to see the Roman ruins and claim a spot in the sand, where we soaked up the Mediterranean ocean and sun for an afternoon.  Incurably funny, she charmed the petals and teased Goose.  To us, she’s an Event.

Two.  She beat breast cancer last year.  Yes, she did this.  With the help of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and intense personal grit.  Here in Spain was only the second time I had seen her since her diagnosis.  This trip was both a vacation and a celebration for her.  I could say Miss Celandine is brave, that she’s a fighter, but these are platitudes.  What’s true is that she did the work, and it was unimaginably painful, and she is now well and as alive as I’ve ever seen her.

This morning I put her on a plane bound for JFK and then for home.  She’ll resume her life as a university professor and All Around Extraordinary Woman.  Fly safe, Miss Celandine.  And by the way:  the Eleven O’Clock Mom thinks you’re grand.

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Miss Lavender and Miss Tulip.  Just a bit of (splendid) nonsense.  Which will make you smile. Especially if it’s been a while since you played like this with a friend. Todo les parece divertido, no? Perhaps you ought to grab a friend you play well with and proceed immediately to your local park.

I happen to have a best friend in town at the moment.  (We play extraordinarily well together.)  We did not make it to the Parc d’Horta, but we did do some rather impressive wandering yesterday, down through Plaza Catalunya, into La Iglesia Santa Anna, out into Barrio Gotíc, then through Plaza Jaume, into the Born neighborhood, doubling back to catch the Palau de Música, then catching the metro for home.  Of particular interest to us was the Llet Merengada gelato at my favorite place in Born.  Llet merengada:  merengued milk, glazed with fresh-ground nutmeg powder.  It was, well, more than satisfactory.

Today it’s Park Güell. (!)  Plus, the sun is out.  So thank you, weather gods.  By the way, I have tentatively named my friend Miss Celandine.  (Technically, she would of course be a Madame Celandine, but she doeesn’t look a day past ‘Miss.’)


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This last Saturday, Miss Lavender and her Dad were on a mission: get to the airport to catch a petal.

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Miss Lavender knows the drill now: metro, to the train, to the shuttle, to the terminal, where an adored friend was coming through customs.

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Nothing looks or feels quite like a friend from back home–in the flesh, naturally!

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When Miss Lavender’s friends travel to see her, I think about them as they’re flying. I knew exactly when Miss Tulip was getting on a plane in California, I knew when she landed in Dusseldorf, and I knew when her plane from Germany was meant to land in Barcelona. When another mother puts a daughter on a plane–a plane destined to carry her toward us–I feel like that daughter is, for the moment, a little bit mine.

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Miss Tulip seemed just the right flower fairy name for this Eleven O’Clock Friend–one of Miss Lavender’s MUN (Model United Nations) classmates from their high school back home. A little wisp of a thing, Miss Tulip is nevertheless one of those Super Smart Girls who nail their college boards and end up on purpose in classes like AP physics, for example.  She is quick, clever, droll. And lots of fun.

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Something about seeing your daughter laugh, hard, with a friend.

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Something about seeing them together, Miss Lavender and the beautiful Miss Tulip. Welcome!–and may your spring break in Spain be as brilliant as you are!

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How do you know when your teenage son or daughter’s friend is a good fit? How do you know when a friend is really a friend? I’ve asked myself that question so many times! Moreover, as a mom of teens for nearly ten years now, I’ve had many opportunities to observe the various friends who’ve crossed my kids’ paths. Three things I’ve observed about genuine friends–a litmus, if you will.

One. A good friend will bring out the best in your child. In other words, your son or daughter will tend to be his/her best self around that friend, the effect sometimes lingering even after said friend has left. How do you measure this?–it’s observable! If your daughter, for example, seems lighter, brighter, happier, kinder (especially to siblings!), more connected to her dreams and gifts and sense of humor and generally to all the hopeful possibilities of her life, then that friend is a good one.

Two. A good friend will never undermine your parental authority or love by talking negatively to your teen about your family’s culture, rules, expectations, values, or anything else you hold dear. It’s that simple. Nor does a good friend use manipulation as a lever to get your teen to do anything that could be viewed as a rejection of family beliefs or infrastructure.  If a friend respects your family and what it stands for, then that friend is a good one.

Three. A good friend–either intuitively or consciously–strives to practice ‘compassionate joy.’ The concept was initially Buddhist but translates beautifully to any world view, the idea being that if your child succeeds, then the friend, too, desires to celebrate that success rather than resenting it or being envious of it. When life blesses your child, a good friend will feel delighted, not threatened. The friend capable of feeling compassionate joy is a good one.

If we’re using this litmus to thin-slice our teens’ friends, then we likewise ought to be actively encouraging our teenage sons and daughters to be that friend to others: working to bring out the best in their friends; respecting the family values of which their friends are a part; and being sincerely overjoyed when their friends’ lives take a brilliant turn.

I’ve watched my kids collide with all kinds of friends, and I’ve seen the results. Naturally, I nourish a particular affection for the friends who have proved over time to be an especially good fit. If you’ve got your own litmus, I would LOVE to hear about it! I am passionate about growing each other’s tool boxes and skill sets!

In an upcoming post: how to help your teens build solid friendships.

(Photo above: Miss Zinnia, trying out the fit of a pair of clogs in Haarlem, North Holland, while her older brother hears the siren call of gelato.)

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Tomorrow, Miss Primrose will be delivered once again to the airport, where she will get on a plane. Miss Lavender will say goodbye to her, and they will go about the business of being (very lovely) Teenagers Soon To Go To College.

But flying tomorrow?–no big deal. They flew together, this afternoon.

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Because that’s what best friends do together: they take turns flying.

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And they take turns watching.

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When you see them, you think, They are as breathtaking in the air as they are on the ground.

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Who knew they could do this? That they could grab hold of each other and just . . . rise?


I didn’t.

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But I suspected it.

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As Miss Lavender sits in the library, studiously finishing up the calculus she so detests (there, we’ve said it), a certain Best Friend is getting on a plane.  And tomorrow morning, when Miss Friend lands in Barcelona, the fun will begin.

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But what do we call Miss Friend? She needs a flower fairy name!

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Why, you ask? Well, Miss Lavender is Miss Lavender not only because she adores the scent but also because she resembles, almost perfectly, the Lavender Flower Fairy who leaped from the mind of illustrator Cicely Mary Barker in the early twentieth century. And, when she was younger, Miss Zinnia likewise perfectly resembled the Zinnia Fairy (though these days, she’s more of a Snowdrop).

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The girls and I have consulted the Cicely Mary Barker gallery, and it’s official: our beautiful visitor cannot be anything but Miss Primrose.

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Fly safe, Miss Primrose. And get here quick!

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