I’ve known J since the day I was born. She is 25 days older than me. We were next-door neighbors on a block of townhouses in Middle Village with just a fence in between, so we were close from the beginning in proximity as well as in our hearts. When she was seven, her family moved away, and my heart shattered.
Until now, I never thought much about our parents’ understanding of our trauma, and the efforts they made in arranging visits and sleepovers to ensure the friendship survived the distance. I appreciate that now. We stayed connected throughout the years of graduations, dating, college, marriage and children. The last time we were in touch, I had sent her an essay I wrote about Middle Village; a sad story, actually, about an accident that occurred when we were children, which ended in the death of a little boy who was our playmate. I hadn’t heard from her after that and wondered if my writing upset her. The years came and went; it had been so long that I lost her phone number. One day I decided to Google her and found her phone number online. I saved it, yet never called.
I am not an observant person and my family is scattered throughout the U.S., so the holidays do not hold much festivity for me. But when I send cards, I include personal notes and sometimes photos. It’s my way of saying, Hey, remember me? This is what’s going on in my life and I still want you to be part of it even though we haven’t been in touch. Otherwise, the card is simply a ritual between Hallmark friends with an unspoken reciprocal agreement. On Saturday, I began to write a note and collected photos to send J. Instead, I decided to put down the pen and pick up the phone.
She answered right away with “Oh my God, Gail, is that you?!” She said my timing was perfect because she was having a bad day; her dog died the day before and she was feeling such loss, out of sync with the holiday season she had always relished. This time of year was a special tradition for us as well because J’s grandmother continued to live in the neighborhood until she passed, so J and I would meet at Grandma’s house (I called her Grandma too) every Christmas Day until I moved from the neighborhood.
During the call, we had so much to catch up on that we were talking over each other. Warm and comical memories came flooding back. I asked her what she thought about the essay I wrote, and told her my concerns about her reaction. She apologized for not responding and said she saved it, still reads it now and then, and was touched by it. She’s a big Facebook fan, a media I never latched onto. Like other Facebook members I know, it’s her primary communication pipeline, so I’m reconsidering my reservations to join. In the meantime, we exchanged cell numbers and made plans to meet and walk through Middle Village again where our friendship seeds were planted decades ago.
We may not have much in common anymore, though we are both grandmothers now, but the history will always bind us. Through work, hobbies and neighborhoods, we may find people with similar interests, but nothing can replace the magic of sharing the past. I much prefer to write than talk on the phone, but I am so glad I made that call this weekend. She said I made her holiday, and she made mine as well.