Friendship MelissaFayGreene“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Maya Angelou

All girlfriends have a story. That’s the beauty of friendship. Author MELISSA FAY GAYE shares her story on a friend, who has stories on her (as all girlfriends do!).

Andy & Me

It’s my turn again!

First (because she ran down her driveway and across our street and into my house and up the stairs to find me sitting on my bed weeping at a low point of family chaos and strife), I wrote about my friend, Andrea Cornell Sarvady in my new book, No Biking in the House Without A Helmet.

Then Andy wrote an online essay entitled: “Whoa! I’m A Character in a Friend’s Memoir!” Now, it’s my turn again.

The original episode occurred in late summer, 2007, when my husband and I found ourselves with nine children. Two brothers 10 and 13, joined us from Ethiopia, bringing our grand total to four children by birth, one adopted from Bulgaria, and four from Ethiopia. Among the four younger boys living at home, warfare erupted. One day, a trip to a park devolved into shoving and punching, and the little Bulgarian got a bloody nose and a frightened look in his eyes. Grimly I drove everyone home, typed “HELP!” in an email to Andy, and ran upstairs to hide.

“You want me to take this one?” she (a former high school counselor) asked from the foot of my bed. Too sad to speak, I nodded. “I’m going purely behavioral with this one,” she said. “They don’t love each other yet—so what? They need to behave.”

The next afternoon, Andy barged back into the house and summoned boys to the den. “I don’t like what I’m hearing from your mom. If you all were a soccer team, you’d suck. You have got to figure out how to work as a team.” Her presentation involved a flip-chart, bullet points, and a question-and-answer session. When it was over, they ran up the stairs with big smiles! They hugged me! They apologized. They set the table. I phoned Andy: “You’re amazing!” She laughed. “It won’t last.”

She was right. But it was a start. And Andy would be there for me at every hurdle and up-hill battle on our way to becoming a family.

Yet, upon learning she’d appear in No Biking, “I felt more startled than excited,” she says (in her “Whoa!” essay). She’d never read nonfiction before her move from Manhattan to Atlanta in 1996, when the realtor told her that an author lived across the street. She’d hastened to buy my first book. Oh no!” I wailed to my husband after picking up a copy of Praying for Sheetrock. “It’s nonfiction!”… And I was a fiction girl. In New York, you could get away with not reading a neighbor’s novel; in New York, following the artistic endeavors of others could be a full-time job.

Having been a late-in-life convert to nonfiction books, she felt sheepish about appearing in one. And she felt her contribution was modest.

Girlfriendology there is no greater, maya angelou, friendship quoteBut aren’t most acts of friendship like that? They feel natural to the giver, easy everyday acts of generosity; but to the recipient, they can feel like lifelines. “We have a strong bond,” Andy writes about our friendship, “not based on our children…but for all the reasons two women become close, the chemistry that has baffled men for centuries because it’s based on talking instead of doing.”

Not only talking but rescuing; not only talking but relaying—whether across many miles or across the street—I’m with you in this. You’re not alone. I guess I could have built this happy family without my friend. But I’d have spent a lot more time alone on my bed weeping, and a lot less time in the ricochet of goofy remarks, tall tales, complaints, and laughter back and forth between our front yards.

MELISSA FAY GREENE is the author of five award-winning books of nonfiction. She lives in Atlanta and is the mother of nine. Information & photos can be found at Andy Sarvady’s essay. She did not approve the writing of this article because, well, enough already!


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