Old friends. They finish your sentences, they remember the cat that ran away when you were twelve, and they tell you the truth when you’ve had a bad haircut. But mostly, they are always there for you—whether it’s in person or via late-night phone calls—through good times and bad. But as the years pass, it becomes increasingly difficult to see each other and to make new memories. Fortunately, my high school girlfriends and I vowed long ago not to let this happen. We vowed to have reunions.
A few months ago, we met up for a three-day weekend in the American Southwest. We grew up together in Maine and have said for years that we should have an annual event, yet it’s often postponed or canceled due to schedule conflicts. Not this year.
Four of us-two from San Francisco, one from Boston, and one from Seattle-boarded planes bound for Santa Fe, New Mexico, where one of the gang lives and works for an art gallery. Two years ago, she moved there-escaped, rather-from the film industry in New York City, where she led a life that felt too fast, too unfulfilling. The artist in her longed for vibrant landscapes and starry moonlit skies. She wanted to drive a truck on dusty roads, a trusty dog at her side, riding a shotgun. She got all that and found love, too. She is happy.
The rest of us-still big city folks-converged on her like a cyclone straight out of the pages of a girlfriend novel. Chattering and memory swapping, we were fifteen again in a space of five minutes. Naturally, we relived some of the stories of our youth-angst and all-but we also brought much more to the gathering this time. We were new people. We were wives and girlfriends to someone back home. We were businesswomen, artists, and writers. We were no longer girls, no longer post-college grads. We were women.
I shared an air mattress that night with my friend from Boston, the one who calls me, while rubbernecking in traffic, to catch up on her cell phone, to tell me of her life and love. On the next mattress was a gal from San Francisco, newly single and enjoying her independence. Our host, the artist, shared her bedroom that weekend with a married dot-commer from San Francisco. Yes, we are different, but we are also the same. The years of our youth say so.
The apartment was open and we talked late into the night, our voices carrying back and forth between the rooms as we laughed, cackling about things that would only be humorous to friends with this kind of history. The next morning, I awoke to a brilliant blue sky, beautifully contrasted by the earthy brown of the surrounding adobe. It was Saturday and the art enthusiasts were out, so, with coffee in hand, I dropped off our host at work. I returned to find the others still deep in slumber, deep lines on their faces evidence of restful sleep.
We checked out of town and headed to the airport to pick up the last straggler, who came in from San Francisco for one night. “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything,” she said, despite her 4 a.m. trip to the airport. That night we celebrated over margaritas and Southwestern fare, each of us gazing at the faces around the table as we wondered, who would have thought the bonds of childhood could last this long? Some of us have been friends since the age of five, some since age twelve, and, yet, here we are approaching the age of thirty. Quite rapidly, I might add.
The weekend consisted of long talks by the pool, wonderful meals, and a hike that brought the entire group to tears. Not tears of sadness or anger, but an outpouring of emotion over the sheer wonderment that we can be this close-twelve year after graduation with such physical distance between us. It’s heartbreaking that we can’t spend our days together in the same neighborhood, walking the same streets, reading the same newspaper at the same coffee shop. But that’s life. Grown-up life.
Most amazing is the group’s adaptability to one another. The months we spend apart are non-existent. No need to get reacquainted, we jump back in the saddle and it’s as comfortable as ever. Old friends-friends with an ever-present sense of support and sisterhood, friends that know each other innately are hard to come by, and yet we remain as tight today as we were, years ago, giggling in the back row of Mr. McKechnie’s 9th-grade math class.
Life today, however, is no math class. Our world, spinning slightly off its axis is full of doubt, full of fear. Yet it reminds me now, more than ever-how vital it is that we stay in close touch. We may have questions about our future, but we have true faith in our past, and though this reunion of friends has come to a close, we are already drawing up plans for the next one.