Yesterday I saw my oldest friend. We haven't seen each other for over 20 years. We met when I was 5 (or 6) and my family had just moved to Knoxville. My parents couldn't figure out how to find other kids for me to play with. They bought a box of ice cream sandwiches and we drove around the neighborhood until we found a group of kids. They offered the kids the ice cream and introduced me. The mom of one of the kids came out of her house and checked out what was going on--and my parents talked to her while I stayed with the kids. This was the beginning of a life-long friendship between my parents and Daniella's parents. I don't think they ever would have met otherwise. When I think of it now--would such a thing even be possible? What kids would take ice cream sandwiches from complete strangers (ok, probably plenty!)? But what other parents would get on board with the whole thing? I think that today, with neighborhood listserves and "mom" groups, this kid of desperate act wouldn't be necessary. I still have to think my folks were pretty damn clueless to go about it that way. But, hey, I met D and that's what matters, right? From right about then, she and I became fast friends. We were both only children whose parents had previous marriages (both of hers, only one of mine). I had half-siblings who were in my life, she had mysterious half-siblings who she had only met once. We both wanted sisters. Our birthdays were 10 days apart. She was sunny, blonde, and skinny. I was dark, serious, and athletic (sort of--I was only not-skinny in comparison to D!). We lived only a few blocks away from each other and when we were old enough, we would walk to school together--well, that one year when we were in the same school. Because we weren't usually in the same school, we spent a lot of time together after school. When my family moved to another part of town when I was in the 4th grade, we talked on the phone all the time and our parents set up play dates. When we moved to DC when I was in the 6th grade, D and I wrote letters and made cassette recordings and mailed a tape back and forth. When I moved to Seattle we continued to correspond but it slowly faded. We saw each other again when we were 16 and her family came for a visit to California. I'd just learned to drive and I got us terribly lost in downtown San Francisco with D and her cousin squealing in the car while I, serious as ever, tried to concentrate--then laughed in relief when I finally figured out how to get on the freeway.
That visit was sort of a capper. We didn't write after that. I was already in college, she was still in high school and I don't remember if I tried to stay in touch or not.
Right after D graduated from college, she got married. Her dad had been sick for a long time and he died around that time, maybe a year earlier. My dad decided to go to the wedding (and my mom decided that meant she couldn't go) and I went with him. I was so excited and happy. I met Dad in Knoxville and we drove to the small town in North Carolina where the wedding was.
It ended up not being fun at all. Dad, I think, had a good time with D's mom, but I didn't know any of the people my age, who were all D's college friends. I knew her mom and grandparents and that was it. It was a little lonely for me and the worst was that D made no effort at all to talk to me. She didn't even have five minutes for me. I ran into her twice in the hotel before the wedding. I had a hug and a hello the first time. The second time, her grandparents were there and they witnessed the snub. The were stricken and reached out to me telling me how wonderful it was to see me and etc. (We'd spent a fair amount of time at their house when we were little.) I managed to smile and pretend but I was very unhappy. I still have the picture of D and I--she's in her wedding gown, I'm in my black dress covered in big red roses--we're smiling like crazy but I always see the strain behind those smiles.
And then sometime last year, my mom became facebook friends with D's mom. That led to D and I becoming FB friends. We didn't correspond directly--just a couple of tentative wall posts expressing a mutual pleasure in reconnecting. I could tell that she had married a second time and had two kids. She'd also been divorced a second time. She was going through a major health issue, which resolved slowly but happily. We caught up at arms length.
The other day, D messaged me on FB that she was going to be in DC this week on a school trip with her kids. We ended up texting (more arm's length!) and made plans to meet yesterday.
We didn't have the deepest conversation. I couldn't ask her about the divorces, husbands, etc. Too awkward. The thing she said that meant the most to me was that she asked about all the photos I've been posting on FB and Instagram (yes, I love it). She said, "How do you see those things? It's so interesting. I never notice things like that." This is the highest compliment. It made me remember that what I loved about D was that she always understood me. I didn't fit in very well in Knoxville. I wasn't Southern, Christian, or particularly cheerful. I didn't adopt the girly veneer that was so prized. If I'd known how, I probably would've, but it was just beyond my conception. But D totally appreciated me. My quirks, my humor, my childish intellectualism. She was just as smart as me, but so much more easy going, a friend to many, and one of the least judgmental people I've ever known. And there she was, all these years later, appreciating me once again.
I don't know what went wrong at her wedding. I do wish she could acknowledge it and apologize or explain but I don't even think she remembers. She said, "When was the last time we saw each other?" Of course, I remembered and I told her. She said it was a traumatic time and I asked, "How do you mean?" She said, "Marrying the wrong person!" So...maybe it's all a blur to her. At the time it felt intentional but maybe at the time I was just a reminder of something she didn't want to face? I dunno.
Grateful for: facebook! Can you believe it?