Columns 2016

Old Friends

The thing about living in Alaska is that if you weren’t born here, if you came here from elsewhere, you probably left a lot of people behind. I know I did. While I wouldn’t give up the life I have here for anything, I can’t say that I haven’t missed being a bigger part of my birth family. Although it’s been over 44 years, I still miss the siblings and cousins and friends I left behind.

One of those friends will be visiting me tomorrow. She’s special. She got to wear a cape to her high school prom, the most magnificent cape I’d ever seen. I was so jealous I could have bled green blood. I mean, A CAPE! I, on the other hand, not only never went to a prom, but the closest I ever got to a cape was when I was May Queen in 8th grade. And that wasn’t so much of a cape as it was a second hand wedding gown and veil. I’m not sure that really counts.

But the important thing is that over 50 years later I’m willing to forgive and forget about the cape in the excitement of seeing her and catching up on our whole lives. And that’s a big step for me. In case you haven’t gotten the drift, this cape loomed very large in my teen angst.

This particular friend was also my brother’s first girlfriend. So I learned with her a skill I would need for a lifetime… remaining on some level of friendship and civility with his exes. There would be, and continue to be, many.

Our lives have certainly not taken a path either of us could have ever imagined in our wildest fantasies. I went from that good little Italian Catholic girl to the crazy lady who lives in Alaska and doesn’t even know where the nearest Catholic Church is. I’m not sure I was more than even vaguely aware that Alaska existed when our friendship was in full bloom. Yet moving here has absolutely defined my life.

My friend, another good little Catholic girl only this time Lithuanian, converted to Judaism and will be visiting with her husband, a recently retired rabbi. She has a beautiful blended family and is now experiencing the joys of grandparenthood. Another grandchild arrived weeks before they departed for the Alaskan cruise.

I have no children… well, none that are not feathered or furred… so grandparenthood will never be part of my experience. I am at best in the “Uninterested” column when asked to declare my religious preference. I think most of the world’s religions preach an ideal that far too many of their followers bastardize to their own purposes. Beyond that, I find my spirituality in other ways.

So she ended up a Jewish grandmother and I ended up an Alaskan grannie to any number of birds and dogs. It’s like I said, who could have ever predicted these futures for us?

And now we are going to get a chance to sit down and do reality Facetime, once known as visiting. I can’t help but wonder if the lives we’ve lived have changed us so much we’ll end up wondering what the bond had been in the first place. We both know it wasn’t my brother. We had that discussion when they broke up. He was in the wrong. He had to be. After all, he was just my brother. But she was one of my best friends. And I was a teenager so I was on her side.

So we should have a lot of catching up to do. And we should have an equal amount of trying to understand the other’s life experiences all these many years later. It’s one of the joys of living in Alaska. You never know when a long ago friend will be disgorged from the nearest cruise ship and you find yourself traveling emotionally and mentally to a time long ago and far away; a time when life was simpler because the parental units took care of all the really big problems while we focused on the important things – boys, school and when we’d develop breasts.

Meanwhile, I’m going to see if I can find a cape to wear to dinner with her. Maybe then I can finally put that whole sad episode into my rearview mirror.

One thought on “Old Friends”

  1. Judy Kates says:

    Hi Elise!
    I thoroughly enjoy the way that you incorporate stories from your childhood in the message that you are focusing on for the day. It definitely adds a personal touch.
    Please continue ragging on your brother. I am sure that he deserves all of your jibes & the pictures that you post on facebook are great. I especially got a good laugh from the prom picture. Oh my!

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