One final summer trip to complete in my vacation tryptic: Georgia, Hawaii and now Maine. This time I am off to a reunion of college friends. It’s been awhile since we’ve all been together, but it doesn’t feel that way. I know we’ve grown and changed, gone on to have jobs and kids and new responsibilities, but it feels like we are still the same “Midd Kids” we were over 20 years ago when we first met at Middlebury College. I’m not talking about the passage of time here, that feeling we so often have of where did the years go, I still feel so young. I’m talking about something else, a stability of character I see in my friends.
I’m not sure when it began with me, but I’ve lived most of my life fearing that the sand would shift beneath me, not quite sure that I could trust things to be the same today as they were yesterday. Of course, you never can. Life is always about change, but I’m talking about an inability to quite trust my surroundings. I remember getting sick for two weeks in middle school and when I returned friendships and alliances had rearranged themselves, so suddenly I found myself out instead of in. My family’s finances and fortunes were always changing so I literally wasn’t sure from month to month whether it would be feast or famine. Boundaries were amorphous and when crises loomed I learned that people did not always perform as expected. I learned to live with paradox and found that it was possible, but not always easy and so, I sometimes still worry that the world will turn upside down when I least expect it.
This past week when I came home from Hana, I found my friend Joan busy in the process of packing up her old house and moving to her new. She has owned both for several years now – her new house just down the drive from the old. But suddenly, her daughter had arrived and they were settling financial issues and decorating. She informed me her daughter would be returning in another week to go to a doctor’s appointment and suddenly I found myself asking, “Are you okay? You’re not dying and not telling me are you?” Of course, I’m not completely crazy to ask this, Joan is just the type of person who would not say. But she reassured me that she was fine, just a check up and the flurry of activity to settle up her finances no doubt came from the fact that her daughter’s mother-in-law had passed away a few weeks ago, leaving her affairs unsettled. Joan’s children just happened to be helping their mother. Everything is okay.
And, so when I say these college friends haven’t seemed to change what I mean to say is that to me they seem stable, true, sure, certain, reliable. They have grown, but they seem to remain fundamentally who they have always been. I can count on them to be the funny, quirky, intelligent, interesting people that I have always known and I love them for it. I am looking forward to sharing the next few days with them and discovering how their lives have changed, while relishing the fact that I still know who they are.