Remember the campfire round,
"Make new friends, but keep the old
one is silver and the other gold"?
I've been in touch over the past months with my best friend from junior high through his school, Susan. (This makes about five close Susanfriends, was there name drought in 1948?)
Neither of us remembers the reason why we lost touch after high school, probably simple geography. I left for university and never really returned; she married at nineteen and moved to Florida. There was no e-mail then, and students didn't make long-distance phone calls to chat.
Though Susan did not attend our 50th class reunion last summer, we became friends on Facebook and then exchanged detailed letters explaining the last half-century.
We are discussing not only sentimental highlights, but events that we didn't understand, or attend to in those years. We see in one another more than traces of our younger personalities.
She defined vivacity: a cheerleader whose red skirt flew out as she spun, who always knew she wanted to be a nurse, though she had a professional-level voice. I was a serious student impatient for a broader world, and saw top grades as an exit strategy.
Her parents were more permissive than mine: she could have a steady boyfriend, her curfew was later, and in our senior year, every once in awhile her mother served us a weak highball. I was envious of her engagement; my mother was not, pointing out that motherhood at nineteen would close certain doors.
But before our lives diverged, neither of us bought a swimsuit, accepted a babysitting gig, or signed up for a student club without consulting the other. We debriefed tests together and plotted to overthrow Ed and Wilbur, two geniuses gunning for top honours. Susan and I seemed to need each other so much then.
One of the factors in our renewed friendship is that we remember one another's parents, though my memory of her father is mainly of a man who came to dinner resigned to bearing the giggles and inanities of two pre-teens over his pot roast. In our teen years, we were allowed trays in the living room, merciful relief for everyone.
I knew the boy she married, an athletic, easy-going fellow we called "cute". They had three children, then divorced after a dozen years together. Once they were school age, Susan went back to school and became a nurse, fulfilling her dream.
She married him again last week, after a thirty-some year break and other intervening marriages for both. The relationship revived about three years ago, after Steve was widowed. During the ceremony, he said, "I loved you from the first moment I saw you, I always have, and I always will."
A daughter-in-law officiated; her husband texted his siblings, "Today, Becky marries Mom and Dad at my house!"
If love is lovelier the second time around, so is our friendship. Sometimes we'd argue until one of us stomped out, repossessed Nancy Drew books in hand; our mothers would phone one another to try to figure out why we were irate one day, inseparable the next. (I refused to attend summer camp because Susan wasn't going.) Now, I think we took out the storms of adolescence on one another.
Coincidentally, one of my friends here told me of calling her best friend in high school, after decades of silence, and talking for two hours. The US election seemed to kick up the desire to affirm old ties of community and contribution.
Have you reconnected with a friend from far in your past? How did it go? Or perhaps you are thinking of doing so now.