By my heart's not really into epic love today. Instead, I find myself thinking on a different level about love and companionship, and what these two words mean in the broader context of our lives.
In my second home of Costa Rica, Valentine's Day is not celebrated in quite the same way as in the U.S. Ticos call February 14th Dia de la Amistad, or "Day of Friendship". They use it to celebrate friendship in all its manifestations, including romantic friendship, but certainly not limited to that.
Friendship plays a fundamental role in our stories just as it does in our lives. I don't remember who my favorite character was back when I first read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. But when Peter Jackson released his film interpretation of this timeless story, there was no doubt in my mind as to who took the number-one spot in my heart: From the first film to the last, my favorite character was Samwise Gamgee.
For me, Sam represented, and still represents, an archetype of friendship. His humble, steadfast dedication to Frodo as a person (not as hero, and not as Ringbearer), his courage and ability to keep his head together while the world was falling apart, and his simple insistence on always being there, are qualities that I not only admire, but that I hope to find in my own friends, and to give to those who consider me a friend.
Those of you who are connected to Hadley Rille Books through other channels know by now that a week ago our editor-in-chief, Eric T. Reynolds, suffered a stroke and is looking toward a long road to recovery. This has been a difficult time for the Hadley Rille family because Eric, more than our editor, has been a good friend to every one of us.
Sometimes I've envisioned Eric as the Sam to our quests as authors; keeping utmost calm even as we start caressing our manuscripts with crazed looks in our eyes and muttering, "My preciouuusssss..." Eric would travel with any of us through Mordor, fight off the giant spiders, and carry us on his back up Mount Doom if we asked him to, even if all the while all he really wanted to do was return home to the Shire.
As the Hadley Rille family has come to terms with the grief and pain of Eric's illness, I have found much solace, and even cause for quiet celebration, in the reaffirmation of the bonds of friendship that bind us not only to Eric, but to each other. None of us are walking alone on this path, and the support that the Hadley Rille community has shown toward each other and toward Eric's family is nothing short of admirable.
While this Valentine's Day will not be the happiest I've experienced, I know I will celebrate it with a deeper appreciation of the meaning of friendship in our lives. I invite you to do the same. Maybe this week on Heroines of Fantasy we can talk about our favorite stories of friendship, in fiction and in life. Please share yours in the comments below, and help make this Valentine's Day a true Dia de la Amistad for everyone.
-posted by Karin Rita Gastreich
This is beautiful, Karin. Just beautiful. I echo each of your words. Thank you.
One of my most enduring memories of true friendship happened a long time ago, when I was in a very dark time of my life. My husband had died, I had two babies, and really, no friends. My high school friends were off at college, and there were, at that time, few 18 year old mothers to pal around with. I had my siblings, who to this day are my very best friends. And I had someone else.
My sister's then-boyfriend, who later broke her heart in ways I wanted to dust him out of my own heart for. Twice he was there for ME when no one else was, Sebastian. (Sebi)
The first time was seemingly trivial, but not to me. My sister was away at college. Sebi, his sister (who was my brother's girlfriend) and my brother decided I needed to go out. They wanted to take me to see The Princess Bride. I was so excited. I got to the theater, waited--no one showed up. Like I said, trivial, but at that time in my life, being abandoned even for a night at the movies was huge to me. I decided to see the movie anyway. As I was buying my ticket, I felt a tap on my shoulder--Sebi.
My brother and his girl-friend had gotten into one of their famous fights and were still battling. They were Sebi's ride to the theater. (No cell phones back then, remember.) He begged a ride from some friend or another, because he was NOT going to let me get stood up. I think one of the reasons I love that movie so much is because of this.
The second time he was there for me was when I thought I was losing my fourth child. I'd lost one a couple years prior and was really scared. I needed to get to the doc, and there was no one to take me. My husband was working in NYC at the time, and was on his way. Sebi found this out--I still don't know how--and left HIS job to come get me, only to discover my husband had already picked me up. He came to the doctor's office anyway, and held my other hand while we waited.
No matter what happened between him and my sister, and who he became after it all, I will never forget that love. Never.
Wow, both to the post and Terri's comment.
When I was a college freshman, my term research paper was a defense of Samwise as the real hero of LOTR. I had a blast writing those 10 emotionally charged pages. In 1979, the scrutiny on LOTR was really just beginning to ramp up. Scholarship was limited to a handful of critics and a few short papers. I felt like I was rediscovering the book and the professor. Great fun.
And by association, I can echo Karin's sentiments with respect to Eric and his family. In many respects, our HRB family is an example of the unique bonds that develop over space and a few meetings. Knowing that each of us is IN the world, makes the world a better place for all of us.
Eric brought us together; a gift that bears safekeeping...
Mark--I agree with you. Sam IS the true hero of LOTR. As the famous line goes, he coudn't carry the ring, but he carried Frodo.
Next to my actual family, my HRB family is the most important thing in my life. Fer serious.
(Correction--I was 21 when my husband died, not 18. 18 is when I had Jamie.)
Terri, those are powerful stories! It's hard to imagine making it through the darkest moments without a good friend at our side. And sometimes you never know just where that friendship will come from.
Wow, Mark, you were writing a college paper on Samwise Gamgee in 1979? I think I was still reading Little House on the Prairie back then. That's not to make you feel old, it's to make you feel WISE. Loved this:
"Knowing that each of us is IN the world, makes a better place for all of us." So true.
You two are giving me warm fuzzies. :)
That's a wonderful post, Karin. Pretty much sums it up, I think. Thank you!
Karin, how beautiful, and appropriate. I wish I had more words; I think I will let yours speak for me. <3
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