Linda Finkle gets the surprise of her life

Linda Finkle, right, is surprised with a gift of a brand-new Honda CRV from her friend, Julie, center, at Apple Valley Honda.

WENATCHEE — This story starts 54 years ago in 1965.

My husband and I moved here from Idaho where he got a job with the D.O.T. I was 7 months pregnant with our first son.

We moved into a post-war housing complex with our dog Hugo, and, because of the dog and daily walks, I met Julie who lived across the street. She was 7 months pregnant as well. Hooray ... a friend for me and someone to share baby stories with.

We weren’t alike in most ways, but after daily coffee and lots of talk, found that in the important ways we agreed and fit together like two puzzle pieces.

Our boys were born, her son early, mine late. Our families became friends and laughter was a huge part of every outing. Three years later, we had our second sons, and trips became fewer and far more work, but not less delightful. Four years later, my husband and I had a baby girl.

Time passed and with it came divorces, cancer scares, job losses, deaths and illnesses ... the ups and downs of life.

Through it all, we were there, Julie and I, supporting and caring for each other, giving to each other in the individual ways we each knew best.

We didn’t have coffee every day in later years but gave each other the absolute knowledge that no matter what we would never stop caring and loving and giving.

Now, the rest of the story. In my late 70s, I thought I had seen it all — the good, the bad and the ugly. But I was wrong.

Recently, Julie had come over with her second son and his wife and we spent the afternoon talking about the good old days. The next day I got a phone call from her to meet them for lunch. I had spent a bad night with no sleep and a more than a slight stomach issue so I begged off, but she wouldn’t stop and kept pushing with “Well, yeah, but ... .”

I finally relented and, looking like I had crawled out of the laundry hamper, met them. Julie and her daughter-in-law were acting off somehow, but the day was hot and I was sickish so I dismissed it, wanting for all the world to just go home and sleep.

Julie said, “We’ll go pick up Jeff and go to lunch. He’s over at the Honda dealership ... just looking.” When we got to Apple Valley Honda, they both dragged me into a back showroom. When the dealer opened the door, there in the middle of this big empty room was a Honda CRV, with a big red bow on its hood and Jeff standing there with a camera and an enormous grin.

Julie put her hands on my shoulders and said, “This is yours. I want you to know how much I love you and value your friendship. You are my sister.”

I burst into tears. “Julie, I can’t take that,” I said. “It’s too much and I’ll never be able to pay you back.”

Her words floored me: “Don’t you get it? You’ve already paid for it ... all these years as my friend? Besides, do you want to make me sad?” A sly grin covered her sweet face and I was overwhelmed with this feeling of gratitude. Affection and true joy!

The car I owned was bought in 2002 and my daughter calls it “the Flintmobile” — manual clutch, roll your own windows down, and simple in every way but frankly, old and bit ragged.

I accepted her gift. My CRV’s name is Ellie, after Julie’s middle name of Ellen. The folks at Honda were delighted and it was the talk all through the day and, I found out later, through the entire week. They had never experienced a gift of friendship like that in all their years and were grateful to be part of a real feel-good story. I had tears of gratitude for days.

In these times, it seems people are quick to judge, to find fault and to call out the negative. All you have to do is follow social media to prove it true.

What I hope sharing this does primarily is to let people know that there are “Julies” out there and, secondly, both simple and hard to do: Never give up and never stop giving. Even if it takes 54 years.

Linda Finkle lives in Wenatchee.