Monday, February 2, 2009

Everything old is new again

"The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that
they can grow separately without growing apart."
Elisabeth Foley


Am I beginning to sound like a broken record? Thinking, reading and writing about "connecting with others" is the on-going theme in my life these days. So, I have to ask, was it the law of attraction, serendipity or what I call a "God" thing that I made this fabulous re-connection with a good friend from my past?

Let me backtrack a little bit.

Surely it's no surprise to anyone that I got way behind doing all the traditional holiday chores. I got a roast (sans the plum pudding .... who eat's plum pudding these days?) on the table but not until after the New Year had been rung in and the confetti cleaned up. I could tell by the way my days were shaping up that I should not even consider getting Christmas cards in the mail on time. I opted for New Year's cards. I just mailed them last week.

Here's where the "woo woo" begins. I had to look up an address in an old address book that was buried in a drawer under a pile of papers. Obviously I haven't touched that book in ages. Why that day? As I flipped through the names I had a flash of memory about a woman I haven't seen in ages. Why her? Why now? Wondering if she'd even remember me, I made an immediate decision to send her a card just to say hello. I'm really glad I did.

A couple of days later, C. sent me an e-mail and said, of course she remembered me. Does that mean a)she does not suffer from menopausal induced memory loss like me, b)I'm unforgettable, or c) the connection between our families, though frayed from lack of use, is not broken?

You know the saying that goes something like, "some people come into our lives and leave quickly, others come and leave footprints on our hearts" ? Well, I think that's the way it is with C and me.

We met back in the mid-1970's. I don't recall the actual meeting, maybe it was our kids who first broke the ice. But I remember well the day my husband drove our family into the driveway of the new house he'd bought us. It was in a city I'd never seen, devoid of any people I knew. I can't say I was particularly happy about this aspect of the commonly known navy "adventure." After checking out our new digs, wondering how I was going to keep my toddler from falling down the steps or through the balcony railing to the living room floor 15 feet below, we hopped back in the car and I begged to go "home." Instead, Jim drove to the local 7-11 and placed a phone call to his new Executive Officer.

"Yes, sir" he said, hanging up the phone.

The look on his face said it all. The ship he was reporting to had just come out of dry dock and would be leaving the very next day - WHAT????- Jim was expected to be there. Which meant, of course, Mary, the adventureless Navy wife and mom, would be expected to hold things together, unpack boxes, get settled and not fall to pieces. I was young. I was still maleable. I could still be bribed with the promise of new furniture!

Jim left. I coped. What I can say now only with the beauty and wisdom of hindsight was that his leaving, forced me to step out of my comfort zone. I was braver than I thought. I explored my new surroundings, often getting lost. But in getting lost, I discovered new things and places of interest. What seemed horrible then, really does sound adventurous now. I think it is fair to say that I didn't play the glad game back then.

Good golly, Miss Molly, I sure can wander far from my point!

The P's lived catty corner from us. They had four kids, two large dogs, and a fence. Since both our husbands had duty on sea-going vessels, C and I soon began doing things together. We piled all 6 kids onto the floor of her seatless Chevy van and went places. We walked the neighborhood at increasing speeds before powerwalking became popular. We learned to decorate cakes (a seldom used talent but looks good on a mom resume!)We spent hours at the community pool.

Besides having all those kids under 7, I think the thing that sealed C. in my mind as a woman to admire, was the fact that she refused to spend 6 months at home alone while her husband was at sea. Before he left, she piled his stateroom up with diapers, baby food, clothes and supplies. Then she packed the kids and followed the ship from port to port. In my mind, C. always had the patience of Job - what she calls, "having her feet on the ground." Not much could ruffle her feathers. I, on the other hand, spent those years of constant deployment, just about featherless from anxiety.

C. did in two days what I couldn't do in months - potty train my son. It was C, I called when the toilet overflowed and poured water out of the bathroom, through the hall, and into the living room (the child wouldn't sit on the toilet but oh how he loved to throw things in it and flush. Go figure!). C. knew the ropes at the Navy dispensary and how to tire kids out by letting them run up and down Mt. Trashmore.

As happens in Navy communities, our paths took different forks. We went North, the P's went West. You try to stay in touch but the comings and goings keep all but the very best friendships from fracturing. Then one day we got the word, we would be moving to CA. For me, the only good news that came with this set of orders was that the P's were already there. I was going to a strange land, where the earth shook and the freeways were known for their speed and congestion. The common denominators ... I was NOT happy, the ship would be sailing soon after we arrived and C. was there to show me around town. We weren't as close as we had once been. Life somehow got in the way. The kids were all in different schools, C was going to school, husbands stayed real busy, Mary was depressed. Still we got together when we could. C and I began to share a budding love of fabric and quilting. In the midst of my darkness, I could see that C. was a beacon of steadfast calm. When her oldest son became deathly ill on a skiing trip in Utah, I don't think I ever saw her lose her cool. She was patient, unflappable and, unlike me, able to keep her wits about her while her world turned upside down. That's what I always loved about her. Being so emotional in the face of her calm stirred my insecurity soup pot, but she showed me how strong and capable women can be. A vision I needed to keep in front of me at the time.

[I realize as I write this, I know/have known some strong, courageous women. And I'm thinking how blessed I am to belong to such a sisterhood. ]

Fast forward several years. On the day John got married, I was standing at the back of the church, wringing my hands and guess who walked in. You got it, the P's. It was awesome!

I only saw C. once more in recent years. When I heard her voice on the phone yesterday, I felt time stand still. We picked up where we left off and I was transported to her house in Virginia Beach with the smell of tacos cooking and kids playing in the background. Today, the kids are her 10 - count 'em, TEN!!- grandchildren.

And here's where the serendipity comes in. C's had some pretty hard times lately. Her 38 year marriage that withstood so many trials, is coming apart at the seams. Just when she needed a friend to talk to my letter was delivered to her door. I don't believe in coincidences. I think that letter was hand carried by the angel in charge of helping friends be friends no matter how much time has gone by.

During our 2 hour conversation we talked of the past, about our kids - who's doing what, etc -and we each shared who we are today. We shared parts of our lives, our truths, our pains. But mainly we opened the door to a future of phone calls and emails and renewing our friendship. How cool is that?

Here's to new old friends,
Merry ME

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