By KAREN CIMMS

kcimms@tnonline.com [1]

To have a great friend, is to be blessed, and I am blessed, many times over.

I have friends from high school, church, work, and from places I once lived.

But there are three women who share a very special place in my heart – Mary, Mary and Meg – or as it sounds to my husband, Marymaryandmeg.

Our lives connected while living in a small town on the Delaware River in northwestern New Jersey. None of us were born or raised there. It's just where we ended up early in our married lives.

We met, as many young mothers do, through our children. The only girls my son wanted invited to his sixth birthday party were Patti, Nicole and Amelia, the daughters of Mary, Mary and Meg. My youngest daughter's best friend, from the age of 4 and well after we moved to Pennsylvania, was Kristin, the daughter of Mary R. Her best "boy" friend was Christopher, the son of Mary G.; and while Meg's daughter was a year older, all three of them spent hours together, at the pool, playing make-believe or debating if marshmallows actually would clog a toilet.

Looking back at that time, I realize I lived a charmed life. I had wonderful friends, as well as this core group of women who made a real impact on my life.

I think about it now and wonder, how did these three friendships last this long, while so many others come and go.

The answer? I would not be who I am today, if it were not for these women, who by their examples, made me a better person.

From each of them I learned a certain kindness and generosity of material and spiritual things. And they each had special gifts to share.

From Meg I learned to express my creativity. Fluent in several languages and an adept musician, Meg tackles the home arts the same way she would interpret for a foreign dignitary or perform a piece of classical music.

She taught me English hand-smocking and gardening, and improved upon my sewing and cooking skills. I still use recipes we made for Mary R.'s baby shower (lots of garlic in the dips), and a simple soft taco recipe (add chopped sweet red peppers) she whipped up one night when it was just her and I for dinner.

She also taught me patience, and to remember that good things are worth the wait.

Mary R. is blessed with an innate kindness and gentleness of spirit. The mother of three girls, she taught me to really listen to my children and to pay attention to the little things, and as a result, to be a better mother.

She taught me to stop and enjoy the gift of my children. She taught me how to play, and she taught me silly songs that I now sing to my granddaughter!

She also taught me to be kinder, more understanding and more supportive of those in my life.

From Mary G. I learned the importance of family, the loyalty of friendship, and the gift of laughter.

Mary also taught me to be charitable in the best, most Christian way – to do good things for others, and never let them, or anyone else, know what you have done. But I know how good she is, and I also know I have a long way to go to do even half as much as she has done.

She also taught me the ability to smile through just about anything and always believe that better days are coming.

I will never forget that on one of the saddest days of my life – the day I moved from the home I loved so much in that little town on the river – Mary, Mary and Meg were there to walk out the door with me one final time.

They promised they would always be part of my life and it's a promise they kept.

That was 19 years ago. Our children have all grown up, some with families of their own. Busy lives and careers often keep us apart, but despite the distance of space and time, our friendships have not only grown stronger, they have taken root. They will last, I hope, as long as we do.

I can't imagine my life without them.