Sunday, September 11, 2011

You Really Can Go Back: Rising to Meet the Past

I had a whirlwind trip from Tallahassee to Los Angeles Ca this weekend.  In four days I traveled over 6000 miles and 40 years.

I had the wonderful opportunity to travel back to eighth grade and spend time with my best friend from that year.  It was a glorious trip back and even more amazing:  I think she still likes me.

I had a business meeting with a very important client in the area, and after all the work (another column), I caught a train (my first real train ride) from L.A. to Fullerton.  I boarded a train with all walks of life teaming around, business to families, rich and poor, commuters to tourists.  The woman next me had killer shoes of light tan swede, with stacked golden brown heels.  The train attendant came through offering wine and Pepsi and sandwiches.  He looked sort of like a Steward on an airplane.  But the rhythm was all changed.  It was different in that he had to balance side to side, instead of the up and down turbulence on planes.

My seat was leather with the polished look that only hundreds of butts can bring.  I have seen that look in saddles many a time. And I can tell you it is more comfortable than a new seat or a new saddle.  The armrests were wood, and seemed to represent the time when the motto was, "go west young man". The general chat on the train was time: when you get on, when you get off, how long till this stop, how long till boarding. Time, because the train isn't going to wait on you.... I enjoyed the train as any child enjoys the first ocean dip.  I half way expected everyone to know that it was my first real trip on a train.  Thank you Amtrak !
The short ride was over and at the station was my friend, with the same beautiful smile she wore 40 years ago, same gorgeous blue eyes. I was so happy to see her, but just a tad scared. What if she doesn't like me now? Nah, she has to like me, I came all this way!!!!
When I arrived, the little point where you unload and depart is two sided, with the track in the middle.  Unless you know this, you will be on the other side of the track!  Now I know what that means.  Literally, you must go over the tracks, on a metal bridge, to get to the other side.
And there in all her glory of the past, was my best friend from my 13th year.  I have no idea why, but I called her Buh. 
She was as stunning as the day I met her and her blue eyes, still shining, met me with a slightly crinkled smile and a warm welcome.  This will be the fourth time in forty years that we have seen each other.  I would know her anywhere.  Time and life does not dim what the eye has already deemed beautiful in youth.
We drove to her home in Yorba Linda and talked of scenery on the way and where we went to school and where the house is and where I kept my horse. We talked of the neighborhood and the prices of homes and the tenor of the community. And when we arrived at her house (in the same neighborhood where we were friends 40 years ago) we did what old friends do best. We talked, and talked, and talked.
We tried to talk about what made us special, and we don't know.  The tirades of emotional teens with dysfunctional families?  The aloneness we felt together?  The long rides on my horse, bareback in the foothills of Yorba Linda, just talking and talking and talking?  We had one school year together, then I moved to Florida.  3000 miles between us and the US mail.  No cell phones.  No internet. No Facebook or GooglePlus.

No, we had ink, paper, postage and time.  We went on different paths.  She married early and had babies in her twenties.  I went to school and work, had babies in my thirties.  Her babies left, and she went to school and got her PhD.  My babies are about to leave, and I will.... that's another column too.

We had a night together, an evening of chatting, just talking.  You don't really transverse forty years.  But at 54, you know what is important to know.  You know her childrens' names and the number of grandchildren.  You know her husband's work and how it shapes their lives.  You know her grandmother lived to be 106 and she could too.  You know who she voted for, what her main political perspective is and what she wants for her family.

You know too, that though we will never know each other the way we would have if we had lived in the same town, that we still know each other enough.  That she is special and kind, and considerate, and fun.  That she is a great cook, can garden and doesn't want a big house to care for.

You know that you were right back then, she was wonderful then, and she is still wonderful.  I am very lucky.  Very lucky indeed.