One of my greatest Christmas gifts this year came a little early.
In mid-December, I received a Facebook message from my high school friend, Steve. I rarely see him these days, as he lived in Kentucky for several years and now lives in Chicago, but we’ve kept in touch from time to time through the years.
While sorting through old items in his house, Steve and his girlfriend, Natalie, came across a camera with undeveloped film inside. Upon developing the film, Steve realized the pictures were mine — apparently I’d borrowed said camera at some point.
I didn’t remember borrowing the camera. I had no idea what might be in that roll of film. I honestly didn’t realize there were still stores that develop film. Needless to say, I’d soon find out the contents of that roll of film, as Steve and Natalie arranged to send me the photographs through the mail.
When I received the prints a few days later, I still had no idea what — or who — was in that roll of film. It wasn’t that the photos were blurry; they were clear as could be. It’s that I didn’t recognize most of the people pictured with me. I could tell they were taken at the beginning of my freshman year of college at Bradley University-Peoria, Ill., but in those first few weeks of college, you meet a lot of people. It’s what happens when people are away from home for the first time and are eagerly trying to make friends. Eventually you form a solid group of friends, and the people you hung out with maybe just once or twice along the way fade into the background.
Near the end of the seemingly throw-away stack, though, my heart skipped a beat. There was me, sandwiched between a redhead and a blond. These were girls who would become like sisters to me, girls I’d see laughing on their 21st birthdays, donning wedding veils, sharing baby news and crying through breakups and deaths of loved ones.
This photograph, undiscovered until now, is likely the first picture of the three of us together. There have been countless pictures of us taken in the 12 years since. But this one struck me as particularly special because none of us knew at the time what we’d eventually mean to each other. They could have easily become just as forgotten to me as the other faces in that roll of film. But they didn’t. Those faces would see me evolve from an awkward, boy-crazy 18-year-old to a still-awkward, but much more confident 30-year-old. They showed me a kind of friendship that I hadn’t really experienced before, at least with other girls. They accepted my strengths and faults, laughed with me during my “Lindsay moments” and helped me mature into an adult. They showed me that you could be smart and educated and be a person of faith at the same time. Those two girls — Tori and Liz — were like my family in college and I’m better off because of it. To this day, they remain a priceless piece of my life.
Good friendships are truly a blessing from God. Regardless of age, profession or marital status, everyone needs people to share life with and solid companions can be hard to find. That roll of film reminded me just how lucky I’ve been to have these girls — now women — in my life.
(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)