Thursday, November 19, 2009

Old Friend

I had not seen my friend Paula in, as best we could remember, 20 years. Sadly, that's half a lifetime. So when she was in LA this week, we were excited about the chance to get together.

Twenty years? Sure it wasn't just 20 minutes?

There are friends by chance or location, the people you hung around with because they lived on the same floor of your college dorm or had the cubicle next to you at work. Maybe you had drinks together every Friday or talked on the phone about what to wear to the club or if she'd seen the cute new guy in accounting.

These are friends of the moment. Maybe there are a few with whom you will connect and the friendship will continue after you go your separate ways, even after one of you marries and has kids and the other embarks on a career that takes them places you've only dreamed of.

Those are rare. Most fade because of geography or different life phases or what you had in common - school, work, etc. - is no longer there.

Then there are old friends. REAL friends. Friends you found on your own, when you were a child, without anyone pushing you in that direction. You met when you were 11 and suddenly you were best friends.

You spent a lot of time at each other's houses. You worried your walls would dent from the furious artillery fire of rock-hard Jolly Ranchers. You braved her attack cat. You went to church with her Sunday mornings after sleepovers at her house - even though you were Jewish.

You both had a love affair with the Beatles in eighth grade and made the band out of paper sandwich bag puppets and a toilet paper roll drum set for your school report. You danced them around to I Want To Hold Your Hand. You think you got an A.

You were 12 and you called her, excited to tell her that you got IT, only to find out SHE'D gotten It months earlier.

You listened while she told you about her first kiss, in the band practice room of the junior high school. You wondered if you'd ever get your first kiss. You did. But it was much later.

By then, you'd drifted. It was the usual thing: you got to high school, and after freshman or sophomore year, you no longer ran in the same crowd. She was an extremely talented flutist and hung with the band crowd. You quit band and hung out with the jocks.

You were still friendly, but it wasn't the same. Then she went to college in Boston and on to grad school in Miami. She eventually landed in Tucson. No surprise, she's a professional flutist now.

The last time you saw her was college, although she thinks maybe it was a few years after.

You went on to become a sportswriter. You married, had three kids. She married, divorced, no kids, but she does have an awesome motorcycle.

You are not surprised by her career choice. You love that she found a job doing something that she is so passionate about. She is not surprised by your career as a professional writer. You used to spend hours together in your room, creating a book about a teenage girl who was far more popular than you and she ever were (and she remembered you'd named the main character Nina Poole).

So on the phone on her drive here you apologize in advance for your appearance and not-so-perfect house. She was coming from a five-hour flute lesson and said she was not dressed appropriately to meet someone she hadn't seen in 20 years.

But you know? It was perfect. You had plenty to talk about. It wasn't just shared history. Whatever it was that made you friends 30 years ago, the essential part of your connection remains intact.

And it wasn't a matter of picking up where you left off. This was better. It was fascinating hearing about her life and what brought her to this point; to get to know her again - as an adult.

You know it is still your friend Paula. The best part? She is someone you'd want to be friends with if you just met her today for the first time. And you are so thankful you have found her again.


Paula said...

Awful hair for both of us here...

Cheryl said...

HA! Yep - it was not pretty, but hey, if you can't have horrid hair in front of your friends, who can you impose it upon? ;)

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