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Young and newly married, I relaxed under a pecan tree on a hot Texas summer day, drinking iced tea and getting to know my new sister-in-law, Estelle.  Not much older than I, but already the mother of three, Estelle seemed to be experienced and wise.  "Get yourself some girlfriends," she advised, clinking the ice cubes in her glass.  "You are going to need girlfriends.  Go places with them; do things with them."

What a funny piece of advice, I thought.  Hadn't I just gotten married?  Hadn't I just joined the couple-world?  I was a married woman, for goodness sake, not a young girl who needed girlfriends.  But I listened to this new sister-in-law.  And I got myself some girlfriends.  As the years tumbled by, one after another, gradually I came to understand that Estelle knew what she was talking about.

I remembered that she had said the word "girlfriends" with emphasis.  As I went along, I discovered the subtle difference between friends and girlfriends.  You go to work with friends, go to dinner with friends, go to church with friends, belong to clubs with friends.  You send friends greeting cards.  You need friends in your life; all girlfriends were once only friends.  But a girlfriend is different.  A girlfriend is not "just like a sister."  Sisters have a distinct bond, sometimes good, sometimes bad.  Sisters flow from family attachment, while girlfriends choose each other.  And a good sister also can be a girlfriend, if you choose.  As a thank-you to my sister-in-law and to the other girlfriends in my life, I offer this praise of girlfriends.  Here is what I know about girlfriends:

Girlfriends don't compete.
Girlfriends bring casseroles and scrub your bathroom when you are sick.
Girlfriends keep your children, keep your secrets.
Girlfriends give advice when you ask for it.  Sometimes you take it, sometimes you don't.    
Girlfriends don't always tell you that you are right.
Girlfriends might send you a birthday card, but they might not.  Does not matter in the least.
Girlfriends laugh with you and you don't need canned jokes to start the laughter.
Girlfriends don't yammer about you behind your back.
Girlfriends pull you out of jams.
Girlfriends don't keep a calendar that lets them know who hosted the other last.
Girlfriends will give a party for your son or daughter when they get married or have a baby - in whichever order that comes!

And girlfriends are there for you, in an instant and truly, when the hard times come.
Girlfriends listen when you lose a job or a husband.
Girlfriends listen when your children break your heart.
Girlfriends listen when your parents' minds and bodies fail.

My girlfriends bless my life.  Once we were young, with no idea of the incredible joys or the incredible sorrows that lay ahead.  Nor did we know how much we would need each other.  Get yourself some girlfriends.  You are going to need them, as they will need you!

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