Saturday, March 29, 2008

Friends, Part III

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young. - attributed to Mary Schmich

The above picture was taken in either second or third grade, at my friend Karen's birthday party. That's me, front and center, blonde crew cut and mismatched pink shirt and pants. To my immediate left, in the purple and white striped dress, is my oldest friend, Neysa.

Neysa and I met sometime in the first couple weeks of Kindergarten. We found out that we lived about a block and a half away from each other, and in the wisdom of all of our five years of life, we decided we needed to be best friends. We were inseparable after school, practically attached at the hip during the summers. We did Brownies together. Our moms drove the same carpool. She remembers my sister as a newborn.

I moved in the middle of third grade, to a state far far away, and into a school situation which was as far removed from my experiences as fathomable. I think, probably to ease my transition and give me some measure of comfort, our parents allowed us to call each other once a week. We alternated weeks, mostly so our parents could evenly split the long-distance charges.

This went on for years.

We visited each other a couple times - mostly when I was back in town visiting my grandparents, who always told me when they saw her around town.

We sent each other flowers on our 16th birthdays.

She came to my grandparents' funerals, in our former hometown.

When I was in college, she called me one morning, informed me she was married and would be in San Antonio to see her husband graduate from Air Force basic training. At that point, I had a car, and I drove down to see her.

In the intervening years, she divorced, I got married, had a baby, she got remarried, I saw her a couple more times (I think) and we managed, somehow, to keep touch.

When she married her second husband, the boy and I traveled back to attend her wedding. It was our fifth anniversary, and now one of the coolest things in the world is the fact that my oldest friend and I have the same wedding anniversary.


Back there in the corner, with the flute, is Karen. She's one of the smartest and most talented people I've ever known. She is Taiwanese, one of the strongest Christians I know, and I think I always thought she'd be a doctor like her father. I lost touch with Karen after my family moved in third grade, but always asked after her based on my relationship with Neysa, and the fact that her dad was my grandparents' family doctor. Recently, due to the modern miracle of Facebook, Karen and I reconnected. One of these days I hope I get back to her area of the country, and if I do, I would love to see her.

I found out that she became a music therapist, married a doctor named Joe, and that Joe recently lost his life to cancer. I think, looking at the girls in the picture above, we could never have predicted the turns our lives would take. Our biggest worry back then was what Karen's parents would say when they found the eight of us jumping like monkeys on Karen's bed in a birthday cake-induced collective sugar high. (Turns out they thought it was hilarious. The lawyer in me sees a tort action brewing.)

When we imagined our weddings, we (at least I) always assumed we'd be marrying Prince Charming, and that it would last forever. Whether we eloped and later divorced, or knelt in church next to a husband's casket before gray hair and wrinkles set in, I don't think any of us knew really what marriage was beyond the white dress and ring. In my common life with my husband, we have ups and downs, but I am blessed to have him with me. I have not had to say a permanent goodbye like Karen; I have not had to start over and try again like Neysa.

There are five other little girls in that picture; girls with dreams and lives ahead of them. I would love to gather them together, along with the other members of our second grade class, and find out what happened between 8 and 31.

Today's Training: Running
30 mins on the treadmill, 2.1 miles (14:30 pace fartlek)

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