Each verse of this show tune is a variation of the first line — “If you’re ever in a jam, here I am.”
As fans of the show know, Ethel stuck by Lucy through a lot of jams. Eventually even Ethel began to wonder why she was so loyal to a crazy person.
Toward the end of the series, the two stay up all night dismantling the barbecue grill Ricky has just built in search of Lucy’s lost wedding ring. They don’t find it.
Ethel is heading to clean the wet cement off her hands and crawl into bed when she notices that Lucy intends to put the thing back together by herself.
Of course, Ethel can’t leave the backyard. Lucy thanks her by saying it is times like that when you know what friends are for. Ethel responds, “If I’d known this is what friends were for, I’d have signed up as an enemy.”
Friends of the caliber of Lucy and Ethel are rare in real life. In this age of social media, everyone from a former classmate you haven’t seen in years to a co-worker’s hairdresser’s best friend’s brother gets called a friend.
I am more selective about my use of the term.
I had friends in elementary school, but the clique system left me out in the cold after that. I wasn’t an athlete, a band nerd, a cheerleader, a beauty queen, a “fun girl” or a girlfriend.
I didn’t even belong in the outcast crowd because I was just close enough to the cool kids to help them with their homework.
At some point, I became a loner by choice as well as by circumstance. I was flying solo toward graduation at UAB when an unexpected thing happened — I ran into an old boyfriend.
Falling in love with Zac changed me because for the first time in my life I had to make an all-or-nothing commitment.
I had to trust even though I might get hurt. I had to be truthful when it would have been easier to hide behind a mask. I had to stay when sometimes I would have rather walked away.
I did all of those things and found an amazing friend who happens to be my husband.
Once I let down my guard with Zac, I found myself getting closer to other people. I now have a handful of friends who are worthy of the title.
They don’t meet the high school definition of friend, though.
I don’t hang out with them on weekends. We don’t talk on the phone every day or even every week. When we do talk, it’s not about cute guys or clothes or celebrities.
We have real discussions about grief and God and, well, sometimes guys.
For the record, all of my friends are girls, but we’re not exactly the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.
Only two of my friends are friends with each other, and that’s because we used to work together.
If for some reason all of my friends were ever in the same room at the same time, I know they would like each other.
For one, they’re all crazy. Seriously, none of them have a lick of sense. One of them will tell you that she’s just one cherry shy of being a fruitcake.
Also, they are all strong women. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, the world has broken each of them, but they have grown strong in the broken places.
I am the baby of the group, so I guess it’s no coincidence that I seek advice more often than I am able to give it.
Honestly, sometimes I wonder why they want me as a friend. I’d be lying if I said that I am always a good one.
I guess my most redeeming qualities are my sense of humor and my loyalty.
I have a sarcastic side. Some people don’t get that, but whatever, it works for me.
I am willing to listen whenever my friends need to pour out their soul to me. Just when we’re about to drown in our own tears, I will turn a random comment into a wry joke.
Our problems won’t be solved, but hopefully we’ll both feel a little better.
I’d also like to think that I am not a fair-weather friend.
I wouldn’t stab any of my friends in the back. If they make me angry enough for that, I’d rather have it out face to face.
The odd thing is that I don’t think any of them are capable of doing anything that might end our relationship anyway. I see friends with two faces everywhere except in the select few who earn a free pass from me.
Maybe I’m naïve to think that they are who I need them to be.
But I have come to realize that you’ve got to believe in somebody sometime. There has to be at least one or two people in your life who you make promises to that you intend to keep and who you won’t let go of even when she moves several counties away.
I have friends like that.
And if they’re ever in a jam, they know where I am.