Question for the week
Each day a different chapter from The Square Root of Someone is featured. Readers often ask if the essays are true. Every single one is.
High School Friend
Rosemary and I were best friends throughout high school. We spent hours on the telephone in the days when that meant being tethered to a bulky black table model and waiting to share secrets until our parents went to bed. Late at night, we whispered into the phone and poured over the details of our lives, massaging them as only teenage girls can do.
It had been thirteen years since we've seen each other, and that was at the twenty-fifth reunion of our high school graduating class. Which means we left school almost forty years ago and are both firmly entrenched in middle age. The only thing I knew for sure about her now is that she is still married to her original spouse.
So what was my reaction when Rosemary found me via that new communication tool, the Internet, and e-mailed me that she and her husband, Charlie, were coming to Chicago, my hometown, and would I be available for dinner?
Was I happy to hear from Rosemary? Or indifferent? Truthfully, I could have gone either way, which is kind of sad.
Here was a woman who, as a school chum, had meant so much to me. She knew when I kissed a new boyfriend for the first time. She knew when my mother grounded me or when I discovered a new zit. She knew my most private thoughts and I knew hers, even though she had a bevy of sisters in whom she could confide while I had no siblings at all.
What drew us together in that time between childhood and adulthood? I'm not sure I knew then, and I certainly cannot say now. But there is no doubt that we felt a kinship with each other that stood us in good stead at the time, even if the ensuing years have stretched that kinship parchment thin.
In the end, I accepted the dinner invitation.
So Rosemary, her Charlie, my current significant other whose name is Earl, and I met to call a halt to the passage of time between communications. We both brought photos of our children, as if seeing their likenesses at some given point in time made us participants in the growing up process. Since my friend and her husband have a thirty-four year relationship with each other's families, they also brought pictures of siblings and spouses, nieces and nephews, and aging parents. It was wonderful to see because, in another lifetime with an ex-husband, I had known some of these people.
My photo offerings were more meager, not only because Earl and I do not share a lengthy history but also because our family trees are considerably smaller. He is also an only child.
The four of us sat in Su Casa for a couple hours nibbling tourist-quality Mexican fare and laughing at high school memories, catching up on those missing years, and telling each other where our grown children went to college. Then, because all of us had a busy day tomorrow, we opted to retire early, but only after agreeing to get together again before they leave town.
I write this in the cocoon of my own home, marveling at the fragility and resilience of friendship. Remembering bits of conversation about this and that.
Both of us returned to school in our middle years and each of us ended up in the communications field. Rosemary was awarded her Ph.D. in communication from the University of Kentucky. I got my Master's from Lake Forest College and have worked in public relations and as a freelance writer much of my adult life.
Through years of experience, we both know how to get someone else to do the talking. We know how to offer empathy and elicit a response. So are we diehard friends or merely curiosities in each other's lives for an evening?
I am still not sure.
I only know those memories of late night high school telephone conversations come flooding back full force. I only know that, although her hair is grayer and her blood pressure higher, Rosemary has the same optimistic viewpoint and soft smile she had at Mount St. Mary's Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the early sixties. I only know it was Rosemary who made the effort to contact me, and Iím glad she did.
Even if I never saw her again-- although I think I shall -- the value of being with Rosemary for a few short hours lies in remembering that once we shared a time and a place and a sense of intimacy that was real and valuable and special.
Sometimes that is all you should ask of friendship.
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