I've been pensive all week, traveling back in time in my mind, trying to formulate the words to tell you about "the big reunion" with my high school friend. I went to Houston last week and we spent two days and nights catching up on our lives over the past thirty-eight years. It was an emotionally exhausting experience for both of us, one I can't get off my mind.
Let me say that seeing her was wonderful, but it did not play out as I had imagined it during the weeks leading up to the visit. During that time we had spent hours talking on the phone and texting one another; I became more anxious and excited as the visit approached. For reasons too tedious to go into here (they don't affect the story at all) I booked a room at a hotel near her house and we had our visit there. Here's a brief commercial for the Holiday Inn Priority Club: I booked a deluxe room so that we would have extra space. When I arrived, the clerk told me they were sold out for the night so, because I was a Priority Club member, they upgraded me to a suite. It was wonderful, with a living area, dining table and chairs and separate bedroom. I've lived in apartments smaller than this suite, so it worked out perfectly for us. Now back to the story. I called her when I checked in and, shortly thereafter, came the knock on the door. I thought I would be girly and giddy, squealing with delight, but when I opened the door, we both just stood there, looking at each other, buffering ourselves against the woosh of years flying by. "You look the same," she said. "You don't," I replied. Then we laughed and hugged.
We talked for hours, falling easily into a feeling of comfort and companionship. We talked of the people in our lives, weaving the past and present together to explain who we had become. It was gut-wrenching at times; life has dealt some hard blows to each of us, more to her than me I think. But here we were, survivors with a sense of humor. She went home at night to feed her dogs and sleep in her own bed, giving us some time to decompress and process what we'd heard.
The next day we ventured out for lunch and later, to Starbucks to pick up a cappuccino for her in the drive through. "Stop!" she cried as I started to drive away. "I need a bunch of Splenda and a straw," forgetting that I didn't know that. I didn't know what she put in her cappuccino, but we both agreed that it felt like I should. We had reconnected so quickly and seamlessly that it was hard to believe almost forty years had passed, that I didn't know her favorite foods, drinks or personal obsessions. As we reflected, we remembered that we had not known each other all the way through high school. She had moved to Baytown during middle school and went to a different school from me. It wasn't until our Junior year, when we both were on the staff of the Gander Gazette newspaper, that we connected and remained best friends until we graduated. She and I were a little different than most of our peers. Both of us had an enormous degree of freedom and independence from our parents. Mine were divorced and I lived at home with my Dad and younger brother. My older sisters were already married and gone; she never met them. Her parents were on the verge of divorce and she had forged a level of independence necessary to survive. Even then I thought she was a warrior. She worked several jobs as well as giving private lessons to younger flute players, bought her own car and clothes and excelled at everything she put her mind to, except being organized. We laughed a lot about that, remembering everything she did was either at the last minute or late. The fact that neither of us had a "stable" home life, one where the mom and dad sat down with the family over dinner at night, where the kids had assigned chores and were guided in their endeavors by involved parents, somehow made us closer. We knew we were different from most of our friends and felt somehow that we were stronger and better prepared for life ahead of us. I think it was safe to say that, even in high school, neither of us believed in fairy tales.
So here I am, days after my return home, trying to assimilate it all. I found out that her brother has lived very near my brother all these years. Their sons have been in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts together and go to the same school. She and I worked and lived near each other for years, liking the same restaurants and probably passing each other time after time, leading similar lives and never connecting. I keep thinking what it would have been like if we had kept our friendship after high school. Most likely our differences would have led us to drift apart -- I got married, she stayed single; I raised children, she didn't. Maybe the best solution is what has played out, two old women, both banged up and bruised by life but still kicking, reunite and recapture the love and friendship they always had and searched for during the intervening years. Sounds like a good novel, doesn't it? Maybe I'll add it to the list.
So here's to you, A.K.L. You were my hero in high school and now you are again. I know the years ahead of us will be filled with hours of talking, writing, laughing and drinking coffee. Hurry up and get well so you can come up here to visit me, meet Scottie, the dogs and the rest of my family and you and I can continue our journey.
Thanks for stopping by today. I'm deep in thought about another post and will be back here soon.