Hello old friend.


shapeimage_2-1_2The stars aligned themselves this week – just so – in order to bring us two of our favorite people:  my best childhood friend, Sweet Sue, and our hilarious college buddy, Duddy.  It felt like an embarrassment of riches, to have these two in town for work (and a bit of play) at the same time.

Sweet Sue has known me in all my fiendish glory since I was twelve.  We were silly, hyper, over-achieving Catholic schoolgirls together, we were awkward boy-starved, melodramatic journal writing teenagers together, we were crunchy, boozing, bar hopping, bored by our hometown college girls together . . . and now, as impossible as it is to believe sometimes, we are all grown up.  Women.  Sweet Sue lives in Manhattan. She’s a standup comic and a writer. Her life is technicolored and glamorous to me – a world away from my deciduous tree kid-centered existence.  We’re both busy – we correspond by email in intermittent flurries and then go dormant for weeks, months even.  We squeeze in good long juicy phone calls a few times a year and a visit every couple years.  There is no one, and I mean no one, who I’d rather loom with than Sweet Sue.  She and I raise loitering to an art form.  We once spent nine hours slothing it around Fanueil Hall in Boston and on the same trip, logged an ungodly number of hours in a nondescript park in Washington, D.C., happy as clams, moving from park bench to park bench, amused spectators to a tiny chunk of the world I couldn’t find again if you paid me a million dollars.  We meander, eat, sit, people watch, shop, and most of all talk.  We can certainly talk on a couch in a quiet room, but something about being out in the fray, with the world swirling about, that sort of allows conversations to unfold and skip along in expected and unexpected ways.  The volume on the world gets turned down, and we talk of life and love and loss.  We talk of clothes and hair and celebrities.  We used to talk about weight a lot – and then do nothing about it.  Now we talk about skin care – and do nothing about it.  Why is it so good for my soul to spend time with her?  Because I love her, plain and simple.  I just do.  And because when we’re together, the girls we used to be are there too, shimmering closer to the surface than in regular life.  When we’re together, it just doesn’t feel that different from when we were twelve.  I don’t think it ever will.

And after Sweet Sue’s short and lovely visit, I turned my attention to Duddy, who was Doctor Dash’s roommate in college.  He and Dash and three other guys lived down the block from our little blue house of girls on Saint Peter’s Street.  Duddy was the beautiful curly haired boy with the station wagon – the wagon that I conjure in my memory as having clouds of pot smoke billowing out of its windows as it sharked its way through the streets of Southbend.  It was so good to see him again.  We feasted and we partied and we laughed our asses off.  We talked about our kids.  Duddy has three beautiful children. In a way it blows my mind – but I also have this down in the gut certainty that he’s a great dad.  I haven’t seen him with his kids, but after seeing him with my kids, I just know.  And I’m not surprised.  What else were we doing in college, but in some ways preparing for this?  We were finding ourselves and figuring out who we wanted to be.  We were free and happy and in constant pursuit of a good time, a good buzz – soaking it all in, completely unaware of the blink of an eye that would take us to our real lives, our lives with a capital “L”. 

We were unwittingly setting the bar for ourselves: the bar for friendship, the bar for happiness.  

Duddy and Dash knew me when I was young.  When motherwas not my identity.  When every thought, emotion, decision and perception didn’t emerge, slightly altered, through the filter of motherhood.  It’s almost inconceivable to me now that I was actually that girl once.  That I walked through this world freely, unconnected to these children that are now everything to me.  For these reasons I have always cherished my college friendship with Dash and our friendships with our other college friends.  It’s a cliche, but man, you really do pick up where you left off.  I hadn’t seen Duddy in ten years and it’s as if a day hasn’t gone by since we were all huddled around a keg in fishermen sweaters and flannel shirts.  At the same time, there’s this intriguing decade and a half long chasm filled with the stuff of our lives:  marriage, work, children, pleasure, survival, compromises. There are music, books and ideas to be shared. There’s a whole hell of a lot to catch up on.  And catch up we did. 

Dash and I are both transplants to this fair city, so we don’t have many old friends here.  We have friends that are starting to feel like old friends, friends that will some day be old friends.  Here’s the thing – our old friends are scattered around the country, so when we see them, the past  – our shared past – is breathtakingly immediate.  We tap right back into that fountain of youth because we haven’t had time to pile other experiences on top of it.  There haven’t been barbeques and kids’ birthday parties creating new memory growth rings that change our perceptions of ourselves and each other from when we were twenty-one.  I suppose that’s why these little peeks into each other’s lives as grown ups are so sweetly compelling.  We see our own growth in each other . . . and in each other, we are reminded of how it all started.

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