The thing about the roads we choose to go down in life...we can choose different ones at any time.
I think I'm taking a detour.
This year, I've been lucky enough to get re-acquainted with a few people from my far distant past. Almost 35 years past. The dreaded high school years. Ack.
No one was more surprised than me to find out how much its meant.
When I left my hometown, I barely glanced in my rearview mirror.
So long, suckers.
I never looked back. To say I haven't kept in touch would be a gross understatement. I didn't pine for home. Ever.
Don't get me wrong. Contrary to what some might think, I was not ashamed of my more humble beginnings. In fact, I felt a certain sort of pride (Girl, Interrupted) peppered with a generous dose of affection. But, it was a chapter I'd closed and as far as I was concerned, it didn't need to be opened. I held onto many painful memories from those days, I didn't want to dwell. Let's just say it was a dirt covered onion I didn't intend to peel.
Then, life happened. My mother died (The Mother Load). To my astonishment, several old friends were kind enough to come to her memorial (The Things We Keep) including my best friend from high school. I felt awash in gratitude and a little ashamed. They'd all taken time out of their Saturday to help me grieve, to wish me and mine the best. I hadn't held up my end all these years. It was then I steered toward a different road.
I reminded myself that more than one truth can exist at a time. Along with the painful, there's the sweet. I could pick what I wanted to think about, what I wanted to remember.
I picked the sweet.
When my book got published, I joined the social media fray, begrudgingly. I made a conscious decision to not include my high school in my personal info, or to try to Friend anyone from the good old days. Preferring to stay in the present.
After my mother's memorial, I changed my mind.
I've since been graced with a peek into many of my old cronies lives. I've seen their children, grandchildren, dogs, cats, spouses. I've peeked in on their vacations, celebrated their victories, felt sadness if they suffered. Some would argue that a virtual relationship via Facebook isn't a real relationship. I would agree. But, call it what you will, whatever it is, I've felt a part of it all. Even just a little feels like salve on a wound.
Because of my newfound fervor for old friends, hubby and I met up with one of my girlfriends from school, and her husband, during our recent trip to Florida. Just like in the movies, the years fell away. We laughed, gossiped, solved several of life's more serious problems, broke bread, shared wine. She opened her heart and her home to me, introduced me to her friends, hosted a shindig to celebrate my book.
William Faulkner wouldn't have gotten a warmer welcome. I felt like a literary star and the prodigal daughter all at once.
I had the time of my life and I am still reeling over her generosity. My heart feels full with all sorts of warm fuzzies and I'm not a warm fuzzie kind of gal.
Maybe I am now.
I realized then what I'd really missed.
My friends helped raise me. Let's face it, after the age of 12 our friends become our sounding boards, our parents shift into the background with their white noise and unwelcome advice. Our friends informed our opinions, values, helped discern what was important, what wasn't, they helped picked our clothes, our hairstyles and our peer group. They were there during the toughest part of life...adolescence. When your whole life could fall apart if a pimple showed up on your chin.
Lately, when I think about home, it's in grateful appreciation. I remember with a smile how my best friend and I used to ride our motorcycles to the dump, singing (badly) at the top of our lungs. We'd go there to smoke, to bitch about our parents, to talk about whoever wasn't there, and laugh. We weren't allowed to go during hunting season. Our parents worried we'd get shot. Those were different days, my friend.
We'd have sleepovers, which at my house involved working my parent's turkey farm, as my friend in Florida reminded me. We'd have to pick up and chuck the dead ones. That was some kind of fun for country kids.
I have a great life with a great man and all the joy filled trappings that go with it. Kids, grandkids, a home and career I love. My life would've gone on quite happily had I never reconnected with old friends. But, there's something important about mixing the old with the new. It's humbling to know there are people who knew you when and still love you. So, while I might not need them to make my life happier, I want them.
And isn't that the best kind of relationship? One you want only because it makes your already rich life, richer?
And, I am rich indeed.
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