Monday, June 14, 2010

Who Are You?...and You Haven't Changed a Bit...

There is a strange sort of alchemical magic that occurs when old friends who haven't seen each other for years finally reconnect -- all the time that has elapsed since the last meeting evanesces and conversation picks up right where it last left off.

The first time I experienced this phenomenon was when I met up with my high school friend Liz (who by that time had decided she wanted to be called "Beth" -- talk about your major life changes...) some time after we had both been away to school. With no effort at all, we caught up on what had happened in our lives and reestablished the bonds that had carried us through the joys and horrors of public high school. We manage to get together about once a year, and have become even closer since the miracle of Facebook has plopped us directly in one another's paths -- she gets to read daily updates of my horse and dog stories, and I get to see pictures of her adorable children and hear about their antics.

But I put the timelessness continuum to the test this past weekend. While in college, I was blessed to spend an inordinate amount of time with two friends, Ed and Paige. I met Ed at the beginning of my freshman year -- his dorm room was right next to a friend from high school's, and I feel madly in freshman love with his roommate, who subsequently broke my heart in short order. Ed was there to pick up the pieces and force me to take a reality check look inside. Paige came back to school a few years later, and we immediately became tighter than ticks. All three of us shared a love of politics, karaoke, and time spent with good friends. We managed to take care of one another during the low times in our respective lives, and we celebrated one another's joys and triumphs. When they graduated and I went off to student teach, we vowed to get together often and stay important parts of each other's lives.

And I tried. I have always been a far better correspondent that those with whom I associate, meaning that I tend to send a lot of letters and e-mails to people I care about. Unfortunately, neither Ed nor Paige is all that great about staying in touch, so when combined with my not-so-subtle paranoia about not being liked (Sally Field complex?), I just thought they had moved on with their lives and didn't want me to be a part of it any more. For the first few years, we didn't do too badly, though -- Ed came and spent a week with Paul and I our first winter in Texas and we had a ton of fun, and I spent an evening with Paige in Dekalb while on my way to O'Hare to pick up a flight back to Texas after having visited Mom and Dad. They were both in my wedding -- Ed in the honorary brother role of usher, and Paige as the blue bridesmaid (which refers to the color of her dress, not her mood at my impending nuptials). And that was 13 years ago. Nothing since. I Googled them both through the years and was able to find Paige in Dekalb -- I also found an e-mail address for her and for a while, we e-mailed one another pretty regularly. I also tried to find Ed's address at least once a year to send him a Christmas card (you know, a lot of people poo-poo Christmas cards, but I have to give props to a social institution that forces people to correspond with one another at least once a year in order to keep bonds alive). I always sent the card, and they usually didn't come back, so I'm guessing he probably got them. People Finder on Yahoo is usually fairly accurate, and I knew he was in the Twin Cities, so I was fairly confident when I addressed the Christmas card envelope each year that it had a pretty good shot of landing in his mailbox. When the I-35 bridge collapsed in Minneapolis three or so years ago, I took a chance and called the number that was listed in People Finder for him and left a message saying that all I wanted to know was that he wasn't on the bridge when it collapsed, so call me and let me know he's still alive. He did, and we spent over an hour on the phone chatting and remember why we were friends in the first place. At that time, he mentioned that he was planning to ask his long-time girlfriend to marry him that very weekend. He promised to send me a wedding invitation and made sure he had all my numbers and addresses. He also promised to stay in touch this time, and not let another 10 years go by without contacting me.

Never heard from him.

About 6 months ago, Paige bowed to peer pressure and signed up for Facebook. Since that time, we have done a much better job keeping up with one another's lives -- this is the joy of Facebook: instant catching up on the lives of people with whom you share some sort of common bond (even if it's a kid you know because his mom is friends with your mom and with whom you went to elementary school with a million years ago). So, when Paige and I "reconnected" (to borrow FB phraseology), one of my first questions was, "Have you heard from Ed?" I (somewhat grumpily) related my last conversation with him, including his promise to stay in touch this time. She said, "I don't know -- I'm going to call him right now and find out." This is vintage Paige -- meet life head on, and just do it; whereas I tend to prevaricate and think I probably shouldn't just pick up the damned phone since he hasn't called me, and thus must not want me to be in his life, and get all over-reflective and wonder why people don't want to stay in nauseum, ad nauseum.

Two hours later, I get a message from Paige: "Holy Cow! Ed's got a baby! And he's getting married in a few months! You need to e-mail him your address so he can send you an invitation."

Flash forward to a few weeks ago, when neither Paige nor I had received an invitation. I was all self-indulgently paranoid and whiny, thinking he didn't really *want* to invite me, when Paige once again gut-checked me (this is why we're such good friends -- she doesn't let me put up with my own crap) and told me to get over myself -- the first thing Ed had said when Paige called him was, "Have you heard from Justine? How is she?" She then went on to say, "Remember -- this is Ed. I'm sure our invitations are still sitting on the kitchen table. I'll call him to see what's going on." That was Tuesday -- the invitation came in the mail on Saturday.

Plans were made, reservations were confirmed, and last Friday, I left Missouri for Cedar Falls. I spent the afternoon and evening with Paige (including experiencing my first-ever pedicure -- it was totally fun, but I'm already tired of my toenail color, and they put some sort of UV coating on it that turned the polish to some sort of industrial car clear coat paint -- I think it will be on there until my toenails fall off...) and family. Her neice is horse-nuts, so I shared all my cell phone photos of the girls with her and told her lots of horse stories (my little girl cool points were way up at that point). We went out for dinner at a restaurant in the building that once my beloved Granny Annie's bakery (sigh -- small sob), then hit the town for drinks (obviously, we've aged -- one drink and I was ready for bed). Around 10:30, we found karaoke -- this was probably the best way for my Cedar Falls life to come full-circle. Ninety minutes and four songs later (thankfully, the place was pretty empty, and there weren't too many singers), we headed for Paige's house, where I took out my contacts and crashed.

The next morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed (this dragging seemed to be a theme for the entire weekend -- my lifestyle these days means being up at the crack of dawn, which precludes staying up late and enjoying the soulful stylings of karaoke queens everywhere; however, this weekend was all about catching up), showered and breakfasted, and then hit the road for Minneapolis. Yahoo maps promised us that our trip would only be 3 hours long or so, but after a wrong turn and road construction, my latent obsessive-compulsiveness regarding being late started to rear its nervous little head. We originally planned to go to the hotel, check in, change, apply faces, and head over to the church. The closer we got, though, the more we realized this plan would not be very likely to fall together as seamlessly as our college "wing it" plans used to. We pulled over at a rest stop about 30 minutes south of the Twin Cities and changed in the bathroom, which was hilarious. One little girl was totally in awe of our beauty and verve as we cosmpolitan ladies brushed on our foundation and lined our eyes -- actually, she just liked our dresses. My dress was white with black flowers. Paige's was black with white designs. I had a black shrug to wear with mine. Paige had planned to bring a sweater, but forgot it at home, so she wore my white eyelet lace camp shirt. We figured that one of us had to be the negative. Regardless, we looked fabulous.

We headed into Minneapolis and faithfully followed our Yahoo maps instructions to the church...well, we intended to, but road construction shut down the exit we needed to get on, and we spent an extra 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get to where we needed to go. By this time, that obsessive-compulsive tendency was starting to really gnaw at me (either that, or it was the Tuscan Herb Baked Lays I had eaten for lunch). We pulled into the parking lot of the church with about 5 minutes to spare, grabbed camera and purses, and headed on in. We ran into Ed as we were waiting to walk into the sanctuary, and he gave us both a big hug before he headed off into the next phase of his life.

It was a lovely, simple ceremony, and when Ed choked up while reciting his vows, Paige and I quietly wiped our tears away from our seats in the corner. At the reception, after all the beginning hoopla and assorted toasts, he made time to come and talk to us at our table. We could tell it meant a lot to him that we had come. Of course, we wouldn't have missed it. We also extracted a promise from him to sign up for Facebook, so that we could definitely keep in closer contact. We talked about a possible reunion in Cedar Falls for homecoming this year, which would be fun.

And then, we danced at his wedding.

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