It’s the season, everyone who is going to school this year has gone back. I have 2 daughters in grad school, both are back. They have a friend who is starting college for the first time at 26 and she is back. She was homeschooled her entire life so she never went school shopping till this year and it made a hilarious FB post when she shared that tidbit of personal information. Neighbors have sent their kids, little backpacks line the streets in the mornings waiting for the bus to come. We have friends with school age kids who sent them a couple weeks ago, one advanced to middle school. Yep, it’s the season. Makes you want to buy some pencils and a notebook or socks and undies, think I’ll go shopping.
School can bring all kinds of memories to mind. Some are fun, exciting, happy and rewarding. Some can be painful, especially the puberty grades. Embarrassed was my go to emotion. I think I lived a good portion of my jr. high and high school years chronically flushed with it. I also had fun, did well, participated in choir, cheerleading and speech competition, lest you think I was a complete dweeb. But the best part were the friends I made. I’ve been blessed to have a few of them remain in my life over the years, one who is like a sister to me. We live miles apart, always have, but we make an effort to stay close. Recently though, I reconnected with my “first friend” one I made when my parents moved to Fremont from Hayward CA. She was my next door neighbor, our mothers were best friends and the ‘hood we grew up in was idyllic for it’s time.
In 1964 my parents bought a brand new tract home in Fremont California. I started Kindergarten in Hayward, the house was finished by our Christmas break and I transferred to Patterson Elementary School in Fremont after the holiday. Mrs. McCasland was my new teacher. Patterson was a good school for me, I had some wonderful teachers, I learned to play the flute. I lived through the dress code transition when girls began wearing pants. Before that my paternal grandmother sent me a package every year with exactly 5 new (home made) school dresses and a hand knit sweater. In 5th grade my teacher’s husband would pick her up after school and I’d linger at blackboard duty so I could beg him to do his Donald Duck impression. In 6th grade I had my 5th grade teacher’s best friend, Mrs Imhoff. She was a gem. She read aloud to us every day after lunch, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”….we couldn’t get enough. It was the 60’s/70’s, school was charmed.
Back to my “first friend” Laura. She is on an epic journey across the country. Recently retired from her job in San Francisco after 20 long years she is taking some personal time before going on to her next earning endeavor. Her goal is to hit as many national parks as possible and any state she’s never been to by the end of her trip. I think she’s currently on day 30. Because of Facebook we reconnected virtually about 7 yrs ago. Curse it all you like social media critics, but in this instance it’s been an invaluable gift. When she started posting her plans for travel I invited her to Chicago for pizza and she accepted. A week ago today she rang my doorbell and for the first time in over 25yrs we saw each other face to face. I’m still dissecting it.
Growing up I didn’t realize that I she followed my lead in so many ways. According to her, when I had to go back to kindergarten after Christmas vacation she longed to go with. I had fillings when I was six and showed them off asking if she also had them. When she said “no” I sighed and said “I guess you have to be six”, she was heartbroken. When I switched to private school in 7th grade she followed the next year. She credited me with her desire for flute lessons and cheerleading. At the time, every new thing I did or told her about was greeted by her with, “So…” and a nonchalant shrug of her shoulders, squashing my own excitement, sending me home in tears.
Friendship has it’s moments…
After so many years of virtual connection a face to face was momentous for me. We took her to dinner at our favorite pizza place in Lincoln Park, Oven Grinders (thanks Stacy and Tom) and Bruce gave her a night time driving tour of downtown Chicago on the way home. We stayed up late sharing stories and updates on lives lived after the ‘hood. Because we went to the same jr. high/high school and because it was a new private school we had an entire community in common. She loved meeting Bruce, gave me a thumbs up on my choice of husband and we grinned at his charm (he is really charming). She compared my current home to my home growing up, complimenting me on the differences. It was all good.
There is something poignant about historical relationships. No one remembers our childhoods (with the exception of siblings and usually they have an agenda) except those who grew up with you. POV while subjective has value and timing is everything. I’m not sure I would have gone through a visit like this even 10yrs ago without a bit of a struggle to forget some of the more painful parts of my past but today, their sting is not so sharp. Tears for some lost relationships and memories of past hurts can be shed without guilt. They are simply, what they are…over.
Out of this visit has come a reunion that I’m anticipating with joy. I’ve long felt a need to reconnect with my cheerleader friends who all live on this side of the Mississippi. We’re planning a weekend together after 40yrs. Yep, once again, Facebook wins. The entire trip was planned through Messenger, Paypal and VRBO…God bless the internet. I think there may be a huge disturbance in The Force when this day arrives…we were not always “tame” as a group…’nuff said.
As Laura continues on her journey across the country I’m able to travel with her, enjoying her FB photo journal. She’s a brave and adventurous soul! I’m happy for her and the life she’s enjoying now. I also feel her stop at my home was one of those rare but invaluable moments in time. One that will linger with it’s shared history, connection and memories. I’ll be thinking about it for many moons to come.
After all, a first friend should be cherished…and I do.