Monday, July 14, 2008

Sunday Scribblings #119: My Oldest Friend

Though I always read others Sunday Scribblings, I have never written a Sunday Scribbling of my own. This week, though it is now Monday, I will give it a try.
I am my oldest friend, my mother is my oldest friend, but I choose to write about my oldest friend outside my family.

Born in March 1981, she was just a squirmy, three month old infant when we met in June 1981, shortly after I was born. Her mom, Ida, and my mom, Mary-Lynn, met in college in the early 1970's and became fast friends. There was no question that Alison and I mostly likely would be too. They gave us the gift of knowing each other from infancy and, for a long time, growing up together. I always felt this somehow made us sisters, somehow linked us for life.

Maybe part of why we delighted so much in each other was the joy of looking at another person and seeing one's self. As little girls, many people mistook us for twins. Round faces; wide-set brown eyes like bottomless puddles thick with mud; and impossibly curly, impressively dark, brown hair that shown bits of red in summer. One day when we were about 4, we were out with my mother doing errands. As we walked hand in hand across the parking lot, a woman stopped my mother to ask if Ali and I were twins. Before my mother could speak our two lilliputian voices giggled, in unison, "No, best friends."

My memories of our childhood are vast, innumerable. Days on the playground, feeding the ducks at Jenny Gristmill, playing in the dirt when my dad was building her new house, visiting her on the Cape to bring her coloring books and a Snow White doll when she had her tonsils out, playing dress up, riding in the go-cart while she drove, tea-parties at the bottom of her paternal grandmother's swimming pool, swimming lessons at TiTi's, the first time my mom left us alone in the house and we ended up huddled together hiding in the bathtub, days on Duxbury Beach, birthday parties, staying over her house the night before my brother was born and when my parents went to Bermuda, a week in Maine with her paternal grandparents, just everything that makes up childhood, that is a part of growing up.

When I was 10 and a 1/2 my parents went bankrupt and we had to move forty-five minutes away from our old life and in with my paternal grandparents. During that time, my parents cut us off from everybody we had known. As a result, Ali and I were separated, seeing each other only sporadically. The gap widened as we got older. Still we were always there for each other when it counted, for the big life events. I lived in her bedroom for a few months when I transferred colleges and she was in California. It was she who called me when she found out I had abruptly moved out of my parents house, at the age of 19, leaving only notes behind. She who met me in Boston for lunch and sat across from me listening, understanding, interjecting her own thoughts and ideas only when I had finished speaking, sensitively and respectfully asking what information was o.k. to pass on and what I would rather keep between us. I guess we have an innate understanding of each other born from knowing each other since infancy.

Waiting for her in bustling Davis Square two weeks ago, having not seen her for over a year, I was filled with girlish excitement and an inexplicable inner calm, a sense of coming home or of home coming to me. Leaning against the brick facade of the restaurant, looking up from time to time into the sea of faces milling around me, I spotted her in the old Jeep, evidence of the four years she spent in Malibu at Pepperdine University, a self-imposed exile during her parents divorce. It is not the Jeep that I recognize first, but her profile. The plane of her face, her wild curls made wilder by the summertime heat, the spattering of freckles across her shoulder, the almost imperceptible parting of her lips as she pauses before turning into the parking lot, and the movement of her hands on the wheel. I would know her anywhere.

Hearing the beep of her car alarm activating across the street, I close the book I have been reading and look up. As she exits the parking lot, fumbling to put her keys into her quilted purse, she glances up and spots me. Instantly her eyes change and she smiles revealing a perfectly straight and perfectly white expanse of teeth. Her father was a dentist. At the whir of an engine coming toward her, Ali's stride quickens and she opens her arms to embrace me as her feet clear the curb.

Inside the restaurant our conversation is easy. Over gnocci and pizza, we talk of jobs, family, travels, Italy, friends, love, adoption and real estate. She is looking for an apartment closer to Boston, to work, and tonight, after dinner, we will go to look at one together. I love how we are still so non-judgmental of each other, how there is no hint of one-up-man-ship in what we reveal of our lives. If it is possible, we are still as open to each other now as we were when we were children.

Outside J.P. Licks we giggle over ice cream and sorbet, our conversation turns lighter, except for the bit about her cousin leaving for Iraq this week. I make a mental note to add him and Ali to my nightly prayer list. After looking at the apartment, she drops me at the t-station and even then it is difficult to say goodbye. I hop out of the Jeep and we are still talking. We've missed each other. We promise to make this a monthly occasion and I am grateful. She blows me a kiss from the driver's seat. I catch it, blow one back, and descend into the cool dark of the subway system.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic post. I love this line: "how there is no hint of one-up-man-ship in what we reveal of our lives." That is such a crucial element of friendship.


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