Wednesday, August 26, 2009
THIRTY YEARS AGO TODAY
For some reason my brain keeps diverting my thoughts back to the ‘70’s, as you can tell from some of the topics of my recent columns. The memories felt significant and I discovered, from the large amount of emails and phone calls I received, that my stories struck a chord that evoked your own wonderful memories.
In the midst of these wonderings I received a phone call from an old friend telling me that one of our dearest friends growing up, Suzanne, had died. The news rested solidly upon my chest breaking my words, causing them to fall in shattered pieces from my incoherent lips. Impossible--I had just seen her two weeks ago; I invited her to my house so we could catch up on 30 years.
I went to the house where she grew up, where her mother still lives, where I had spent so many days so long ago just hanging out, wondering if my mental excursions weren’t somehow preparing me for the sad and tragic moment of losing someone with whom I had shared everything at a time when we were all at our most vulnerable.
After sitting with her mom breathing in the familiar scents that invoked a time long, long, ago and listening until I could listen no more, I stepped outside into the dark theater of the night all alone except for the intermittent flashes of lightning—furious electric javelins piercing the veil of the black starless summer sky; a veil that keeps hidden a heaven I need now more than ever to believe is really there.
“Where are you?” I wanted to scream, but didn’t because the pain of a silent response was more than I could bear.
When did we stop being those girls who filled every day’s minutes with conversation? When did we stop calling each other ten times a day? When did I stop knowing you? The friendships we forge when we’re young are the most solid, selfless connections we’ll ever make. And still, they slip away.
My most vivid memories of Sue are from 30 years ago. 1979--the summer before high school when our entire lives stretched before us like a never-ending desert highway that you might see pictured on the cover of an Eagles Album.
Thirty years ago there was nothing but a future… the days ahead far outnumbered the days that we had discarded. Our dreams held real possibility and received great encouragement from our friends.
Thirty years ago the summer seemed an endless series of uninterrupted moments--no wi fi, no i.m.-ing, no cell phones.
Thirty years ago there was conversation—real-words-spoken-face-to-face not Facebook-to-Facebook.
Thirty years ago connections are what we made with people and not with computers.
Thirty years ago there were helmet-less rides on ten-speed bikes throughout the small side roads of our Bergen County towns as we made our way to wiffle ball games, stick ball games, our friends’ houses.
Thirty years ago we never needed directions—we instinctively knew where we were going and had the confidence to get there.
Thirty years ago our paper routes and babysitting jobs provided us with all the cash we ever needed.
Thirty years ago we didn’t still need babysitters-- we were the babysitters.
Thirty years ago children who wanted our attention, our time, our energy were our mother’s problem, not ours.
Thirty years ago we spent our afternoons sitting on the cliffs atop the Palisades dangling our brown-bottomed barefeet over the Hudson River trying to escape the blistering heat of the August sun.
Thirty years ago we had no mortgages, rent, or crushing bills that need to be paid by jobs that we convince ourselves we’re satisfied by.
Thirty years ago the boys we loved all had hair—lots and lots of it.
Thirty years ago it was impossible to imagine there would come a time when we wouldn’t spend every summer day in the presence of our friends.
Thirty years ago there was a young, beautiful blond-haired girl named Sue, filled with dreams, whose laughter I never imagined I would live long enough to never hear again.