Today just happens to be the birthday of one of those friends I made in the sixth grade. She became one of my best friends and in high school, we were those two who told each other everything (almost) and got in trouble together and got out of trouble together and were the first to ride bikes to school (in 1972 it was SO uncool to ride a bicycle to school in high school) and the first to go to the Army-Navy store to get backpacks for our books (unheard of) and bitched and moaned about Mr. Fink, our algebra teacher and then two years later, Miss Smith, our trig teacher and all of that time we were still in Girl Scouts and we did all sorts of awesome teenage things and bonded for life.
She went to Emory and met a med student and married him although her daddy was a doctor and she'd sworn up and down she'd never marry one herself. He turned, eventually, into a neurosurgeon and I married a guitar player.
She had two kids and I had four, two with the guitar player and two with Mr. Moon. She's got three grandchildren now and I have four, soon to be five.
And in all of these years, which is fifty-one now, to be exact, we've always stayed in touch. Always been, in fact, a sort of touchstone for each other. We can go six months without talking on the phone but we sure as shit don't need to tell each other who we are when we do talk.
She's been through some amazingly hard things, this friend of mine. Medical challenges both of her own and her husband's. Her beloved sister died a few years back and then one of her brothers died.
Her mama though, is still with us but her father died some time back. They used to travel all over the world, her mama and daddy. I remember when they went to London and went to Carnaby Street which was probably the hippest shopping street in the world at that time and bought one of their sons a pair of paisley pants which was EARTH SHAKING and when he wore them to school in the 9th grade, he got sent home.
It's really something to have a friend for this long a time. One of us can name a name and the other knows exactly who we're talking about. We share so many memories in common. It's odd to think of that, in a way. Things that no one else in this world remembers but one other person. Memories that can make you sigh or laugh or yearn or groan or blush or wonder at, still after all these years. Memories of things that were absolutely formative in your life. That are a major part of the reason you grew up to be who you are.
I got my first kiss leaning up against her mama's car at Cotillion. I was wearing blue velvet that night, she was wearing green velvet and she caught me kissing a boy everyone called Mafia because he wore sunglasses all the time.
"Mmmm..." she said. "We won't be able to say sweet sixteen and never been kissed about you now, will we?"
So of course I called her this evening and of course she knew it was me right away although yes, we do have caller ID now but we don't need it, not the two of us.
Her husband was making her dinner and her kids are coming to visit this weekend and are bringing the grandboys. We talked and talked and one of the things we talked about was damn! how can we be this old?
She said that she'd talked to her brother who's a year older than we our on his birthday and they'd agreed that back in the day when we'd all sung the lyrics of "When I'm Sixty Four" we had no idea how quickly that day would come for us.
I feel so lucky to be able to pick up the phone and call this woman.
"Hey," we say to each other, stretching that one syllable out into three. And with the sound of her voice, there's a part of me which feels completely at home. There's a part of me which is the other half of the puzzle to her.
I tend chickens and she works full time for the American Cancer Society. She lives in Maryland and I live in Florida. She had red hair and I had blonde.
She married a doctor and I definitely didn't.
None of that matters.
We are who we are, and we also are who we were and no one knows those people better than the two of us.
Happy birthday, my sweet friend.
I will always love you...Mary