Thursday, January 1, 2009

Looking for Buechner

The first Buechner book I read, Secrets in the Dark, went with me in 2007 on a trip to France. Since then I have quoted Frederick Buechner's writings, referred to his insights and embraced his Christian testimony for its wisdom, honesty about doubts and emotional transparency. 

In the course of time since then, the word Buechner has turned into a refrain, a word my husband echoes whenever I say it aloud. Pronounced Beek-ner, we exaggerate the "k" and repeat the name: BeeK-ner, BeeK-ner, BeeK-ner. Saying the word and then hearing the sound brings to mind the Muppets, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker.

But a reunion with my best friend from high school added great joy to my New Year’s celebration and sent me looking for Buechner, not Beaker.

In a chapter titled, "The Newness of Things," Frederick Buechner talked about “what unlikely new candidate for friendship may turn out to be the Hardy to your Laurel, or the other way around.” Stay open to possibilities he insists. The old could become the new, I think.

He said friends can come from different worlds with different views and interests, “But you never know when one of them may turn out to be somebody you’ll hang on to for the rest of your life.”

No miles or years or tears or differences because as Buechner noted, Laurel and Hardy “are direct opposites in almost every way and that is of course what makes them such a great comic team as they squabble and bungle their way through the world creating mayhem wherever they go.”

“But what makes Laurel and Hardy so much more than just funny,” Buechner says, “and what has kept their movies alive all these years is the sense they somehow manage to convey that underneath all the differences between them they love each other.” Bonded for life. 

In this essay Buechner wrote in 1997–1998, he suggested that at the end of the old year and the beginning of a new one "writing a letter to the person you will have turned into fifteen years from now, and in that letter jog your memory about at least a few of the important things … Write to yourself what you hope you’ll be doing with your life fifteen years from now and also the kind of thing you hope you won’t be doing.” A kind of reverse resolution, I suppose.

“Some people say there is a God and some people say there isn’t; set down in your letter which side you would put your money on today and why.” Good thinking. Good timing. Great prompt.

“Set down the last thing that made you cry, and the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen up to now, and the nicest thing anybody has ever done for you,” which is where my friend comes into the story. Back then we were best friends, and it was her mom, her dad, two younger brothers and a younger sister who gave me a place in their home so that I could finish high school in Dallas, a kindness that makes it impossible for me to imagine where I would have ended up without them.

Yesterday I spent New Year's Eve with my friend and her family awakening dormant memories–"Veta Louise Simmons, I thought you were dead"–and making a few new ones. 

I had found Buechner whose words reminded me how much we need each other, and yes, the importance of footnotes to stories. 


San said...

Bravo! Welcome, welcome to blogworld! So glad you are here.

Carol said...

How fitting that the first comment, assuming others may follow, but that the very first response should come from you.

Dieula Previlon said...

Hey Carol, I've always enjoyed your refreshing views on the simplicity of life. I love the line you quoted from (Beek-ner) how the two were completely opposites but their relationship worked. Just thinking of all the friendships I've made since moving here in TX, sometimes we seemed to be polar opposites but I've learned so much from them and them me. I guess friendship has a deeper component than just similarities.

andeverybodyisokaywiththis said...

Carol, I'm so honored to have made it into your blog--and feel so relieved that, even though we have traveled in completely different orbits, we can still connect on many levels. After our reunion, I felt like a whole new dimension was added to my life, and hope we can continue to build bridges and to work together to build a better world!