Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Twenty-two years

Last night I hosted a Tea Party. Ten women came to my home to sample and purchase a variety of teas from a new Canadian company called Steeped Tea. It was a wonderful evening. Though it would only have been half as wonderful if a dear friend from another life hadn’t surprised me with her attendance.

The tea presentation had begun. I assumed everybody who was coming, had come. I was settled in nicely, listening intently to the health benefits of green tea. Curious by the creaking of my porch door opening, I leaned forward just enough to catch a glimpse of the woman standing there. As if nobody was in the room, I jumped from my chair and ran, waving my arms and screaming “It’s Jen! It’s JEN!!! I haven’t seen Jen since I was a kid!” Without giving her face another look, I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed tight. I stepped back, held her at arm’s length and she answered the question I didn’t even have to ask. “It’s been twenty-two years”. We were about 13 and 14 the last time we saw one another. High school. Eons ago. Twenty-two years.

We excused ourselves for being so rowdy, and hushed ourselves to the two remaining chairs in the room. They appeared to be reserved just for us. We spent the next five minutes glancing at each other every few moments, as if to be checking to make sure we were really where we thought we were. She beside me and I beside her.

The evening was spectacular. Steeped Tea offers an exquisite collection of loose teas. You must sample, or at least smell, as many as you can, as soon as you can. I seem particularly drawn to their Rooibos teas, from South Africa. Glorious, rich teas with a heavier, more coffee-like impression. Interesting, as I am not a coffee-drinker, though I do love its aroma.

I digress.

Jen is one of a very select group of people who I have thought of a zillion times since our last connection. As kids, we don’t understand why friendships fade and, when they do, how to nurture them back. After a regrettably long period of time, you figure it’s too late. If she hadn’t come looking for you, and you hadn’t gone looking for her, it was done. The friendship was one of childhood only, and in that vault is where it would stay. But you continue to wonder, be filled with curiosity, longing and sorrow. That friend was special. And if you hadn’t been such a lazy kid, she would still be your friend today. Probably one of your very best.

But that wasn’t my path with Jen. It took a social networking website, okay FaceBook, to bring us together again. I had searched for her several times since joining, to no avail. Then one morning I had a message in my Inbox. From Jen. Just like last night when she walked through my front door, I jumped from my chair and ran, waving my arms and screaming “It’s Jen! It’s JEN!!! I haven’t seen Jen since I was a kid!”. Andrew (my, until now not mentioned, husband) thought I was nuts, but appreciated my excitement, for he too wonders about long-ago friends.

What struck me most about Jen, and what spoke such a strong message to me all night and much of today, was that she is exactly the same person. Not just her brilliant smile full of glorious, straight teeth (I always loved her teeth. I don’t think she ever had to endure orthodontics), her twinkling eyes, her gentle yet bubbly voice... She was in every imaginable way, the same character of the girl I adored as a kid. The very same.

Funny thing was, she said the same about me.

And to think I have done so much in the last twenty-two years (appreciating you are just getting to know me, I’ll fill you in on my life story another time). How could twenty-two years and just as many major life experiences not fundamentally change a person? But I really don’t think it is possible. Again thanks to FaceBook, I have reconnected with other long-ago friends. My best friend for the first seven years of my life, is now openly gay. A major life change, but he is still essentially, fundamentally Chris. Finola, a dear friend in high school. Married, two glorious daughters. Again, significant life changes, but she is still thoughtful, sweet, wondrously intelligent Finola.

So for Jen to say I was still the same had me glowing. I know who I am now, but I seem to have forgotten — or did I ever really know — who I was as a kid. Perhaps being told I haven’t changed gave me a clearer insight into the ten-year old me. Which somehow helps to establish a stronger sense of myself now.

I think we could all use a stronger sense of self. So go ahead. Find those long, lost friends and let them tell you you haven’t changed. It feels incredible.

Thanks, Jen.

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