The gift of friendship


When I was invited to attend my best friend’s surprise birthday party in another city, I thought why not? I hadn’t seen her for some time and exhausted from all the Norooz activities, a trip might do me good and provide a chance to relax.

A friend met my on-time flight and soon we were driving through the San Francisco drizzle to Half Moon Bay, where the party would be. An out-of-towner, it felt strange to be in a room where I did not know most of the guests, but in less than half an hour, the party warmed up and everyone did their best to make me feel at home. When the approach of the birthday girl was announced, anticipation took over and all eyes were on the entrance to see how surprised my friend would be and, oh, was she ever surprised!

Amid cheers, hugs, even tears, my friend went around to greet her guests, acting extremely overwhelmed and totally speechless. Moments later, as a chain of birthday speeches commenced, the flashing of cameras reached its peak and one-by-one, people came forward with stories to tell and memories to recall. As the guests offered their well-deserved praises for the guest of honor, it was as if a fog lifted and I began to see a woman whom, up to that point, I had not known. The scrawny little girl sharing my desk in second grade had now turned into a successful businesswoman and a highly respected member of her community. While others spoke of her grandeur, her big heart, and her generosity, I couldn’t help remembering our games of hide-and-seek and wondered if they knew how much she enjoyed snacking on dried sour cherries.

As if time had frozen in my mind, it shocked me to discover that, while looking at the middle-aged lady for whose birthday this elegant party was arranged, I still saw the little girl in my grade school. Despite the fact that we had seen each other several times over the past few decades, at no point had I altered her image and as a result, in my heart she had remained the loving friend of my childhood. Our fond memories had survived decades of a life that had undergone drastic changes and despite the distance, our bond seemed intact. Throughout the day, every time her eyes found mine, I saw gratitude in her tearful glance as if to thank me for having brought back what only I could have.

Good friends are indeed hard to come by, but in today’s world, old friends are even harder to find. As much as my best friend seemed to appreciate my presence, she may never know how much I valued the fact that I could share such a priceless moment. A nation now scattered all over the world, we are more used to discarding than keeping, more expectant of detachments than reunions and knowing how easy it is to be forgotten makes such remembrances priceless. Old friends are like unspoken words, the unwritten pages of our diary, and we need their mere presence to validate us and to remind us of who we really are.

I sat back and enjoyed every word people had to say in my friend’s praise and felt proud to be part of the life of an adored member of that community. Before the cameras were put away, someone asked me if I, too, wanted to say something. No, I did not, because what I felt could not be described in a few words. My best friend waved at me over the crowd and through tears all I could see was a skinny second-grader in a ponytail, jumping rope and beckoning me to join in.

On the flight back, I thought of the past two days and a time that would be up there with the best days of my life, a time that had brought back segments of a youth I had presumed lost. I realized that when you reach out to an old friend, invariably you receive much more than you give and when you go out of your way to make a loved one happy, the ecstasy is ultimately yours to enjoy.

Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani is a retired dentist and a freelance writer. She lives in San Diego, California. Her latest book is “Sharik-e Gham” (see excerpt). Visit her site

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