Reading Dan Buettner’s “The Blue Zones of Happiness” on a flight from Massachusetts to Florida this weekend I smiled at this part about how to be happy: Create a circle of at least three friends with whom you can have meaningful conversations …
It had been 11 years since Chris, Nancy and I had gotten together—way too long. Chris and I met in first grade, competing and conspiring for the next eight years as students of the Sisters of St. Joseph at Corpus Christi School in Chambersburg, PA. We connected with Nancy after we graduated to the town’s public high school, forming an often silly trio that found our share of innocent mischief. Nancy and I have breakfast together every year or so when I’m back home, where she still lives. Despite good intentions we haven’t seen Chris much since she moved to New England decades ago. We had a long-overdue reunion at my home in Jacksonville in 2004 and vowed to keep them up, making it to Broadway to see the new show “Jersey Boys” two years later. We agreed that the next trip would be to Boston, where Chris and her husband had just purchased a condo as a second home. Then life got in the way. “Don’t worry about that while your mother is so sick,” I recall Chris telling me at that hard time in my life. Mom died nearly six years ago.
Chris, right, and I in my backyard in eighth grade:
Last spring Chris posted on Facebook that fall would be a good time to visit … Boston is lovely then. We needed that gentle nudge.
Our reunion at Logan airport felt as if no time had passed at all. After a short bus ride to the condo we toasted our friendship before heading out to the Asian bistro across the street to start the chatter that would last for three days. Here we were at age 70—one married, one widowed, one divorced. Collectively, we have had multiple marriages and survived parents, a husband, a boyfriend and a child. No pretenses. No secrets. We know everything about each other. This was going to be a special time. Cheers!
Unpacking back at the condo after dinner Nancy handed me an envelope that read “Lorrie, from high school.” “How did you get this?” I asked incredulously pulling out a four-page, yellowed letter I had forgotten that I had written using song titles in June 1963, when I was 16. Neither of us could figure out how it ended up with her, but those tunes sure sparked a lot of memories for the three of us.
Looking back at our lives, we wish we had made smarter decisions when we were young and lacked the wisdom we have gained through maturity and experiences. Yet we don’t regret most of them because we realize that they brought us to the people and places we treasure now.
As we did here in Florida 13 years ago, we lingered for hours over morning coffee reminiscing and catching up. When we finally ventured into the city to meander through historic neighborhoods, stroll through the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway and Boston Harbor, and savor amazing meals in the Italian North End, our conversation and camaraderie continued. “Hey, remember when we had a sleepover and made pink and green pancakes then wouldn’t eat them?” one of us asked while we waited to cross a busy intersection near South Station. “I wasn’t there,” said another. “That’s because you were supposed to be at my house and snuck off with your boyfriend,” said the third.
Although it was a time to relive high school and talk about the past, a central theme of our discussions was gratitude—thankful to be able to walk all those miles each day, to be healthy, to be comfortable, to be here. One evening we read the list of names of the approximately 90 deceased classmates of our 605-member Class of 1965, sharing memories of many. Acknowledging we could be next … tomorrow … we accept our ailments as part of aging and count our blessings.
It was not a time to turn on the TV, talk politics or otherwise distract from the precious togetherness we had so long anticipated. Veering from my general practice of using no names or identifiable photos in my blog posts, I am including theirs with their permission and, their word, trust.
With Chris, center, and Nancy in New York City in 2006:
Making more memories at the incredible Eataly marketplace in Boston’s Prudential Center last week. Ciao!
Party animals no more, if we ever were, we crashed early each night, relishing a great day and being with each other. Here’s to the next time.