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A Friend in Need

A Friend in Need

A friend in need is a friend indeed.” 

She was a court reporter. I was a lawyer.  We bonded over our German heritage, working in the juvenile court system, and having alcoholic fathers. 

Each year I endure three months of teasing from Gretchen that she’s “younger” than me. Today the annual ribbing ends as I celebrate the birth of my friend of nearly 40 years. 

We expect our closest friends to show up for our big life events. Gretchen was there for the funeral of my father, my brother, my mother, and my husband.  But Gretchen always went beyond. She opened her home for one wedding, one memorial service, and plenty of parties just because she loved me. 

Gretchen can create a room that looks like it came straight out of Architectural Digest. When it’s redecorating time for her, I am the lucky recipient of an occasional prize like my living room sofa and my vintage bedroom dresser. With fingers that can record courtroom testimony with exceptional speed and accuracy, Gretchen is also an artist whose most recent gift was a cheerful watercolor of red, green and blue. 

While Montessori moms together, watching her teach her children not to interrupt or to jump on furniture were among the many lessons she unknowingly gave me about how to parent. When she hosted Christmas Eve for a houseful of people who had no family near, she let me see what it means to grow a family you were not born into. Never wanting to be the center of attention, she’s shown me what humility looks like. 

Gretchen has a quick wit and a great sense of humor. Her brief words occasionally hurt like a paper cut—painful for a moment but short lived and fast healing. But more often, they make me laugh deeply and help me practice a desperately needed skill of not taking myself so seriously.  

Gretchen has given me everything from an elegant winter coat to her Russian tea cakes. But I treasure most all the lessons she gave me that I didn’t know I needed.  

Happy Birthday dear friend. 

Coach Koenig 

What do you treasure in your friends? 

Are you willing to receive the gifts you receive? 

How might you be a good friend today? 


  1. Two beautiful ladies. Grateful to know each of you.

  2. Beautiful and so true. Love love these wonderful women in my life. What an amazing tribute Susan to an incredible friend. ❤?❤?

  3. How did Susan manage this?! A clear-eyed, insightful commentary on Gretchen- this birthday essay is always fond while being frankly honest (brilliant: the “paper-cut” analogy) and never saccharin in its devotion. A celebratory birthday paean!*

    * “paean” is a dynamite word that, in my not so humble opinion, should be used with greater frequency.

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