I know how fortunate I am to have my two sisters as my best friends. We have always been close, and with the passage of time and the lessons of loss, we continue to grow closer.
I can’t imagine it any other way.
We didn’t have a choice; no sisters do. We were born into the same family, brought up together and expected to get along.
And we did.
We became even closer when we left home to make our way in the world. When Gail left for college, I finally got our room to myself—until Suzanne moved in not much later. It wasn’t always harmonious in that small space, and I have more stories from that time for another day.
Gail, meanwhile, was making new friends in college—no surprise there. She attended a junior college 30 miles from where she now lives, the same junior college her daughter now attends.
I remember her bringing some of these friends home, and I remember thinking they were pretty cool. They were, of course. I have the pleasure of seeing another one of them in one of my work settings; she is a nurse in the small hospital I contract with. She never came to our house, but nonetheless, she is cool. Her name is Katy–Katy #1.
There was another friend named Katy–Katy #2. They were roommates, and this Katy did come home with Gail. They stayed close during college, and as time wore on, families, work and other obligations kept them from staying as close as they once were. They last saw each other in 1980.
Three years later, Gail named her firstborn Katy.
Infrequent contact was the pattern for many years, but with the advent of Facebook, they were able to reconnect online. This was a gift for both of them.
Last week, Katy #2 called Gail to let her know she would be passing through her small town Friday, traveling from her home in Missouri. Just like the cliché would have it, it was as if no time had passed, even after 39 years. They enjoyed the evening together, and Katy was off the next morning. Gail and her family were off too, on their annual trek to Michigan to see her second-born.
Except that they had so much fun, she forgot to take a picture of the reunion. Otherwise, it would be featured here.
One week ago tonight, Suzanne traveled an hour to see a college roommate of hers. They have kept in close touch, and when it was time to memorialize her mother, Suzanne was there, just like her friend was when it was our parents’ funeral.
On Friday of this week, I was scheduled to go to Wichita to gather with three of my college roommates. It had been way too long, and longer than a year since we vowed to get together to pay tribute to Tracy’s dear mother, who passed away in June 2018.
I didn’t go. Hours before the departure time, the plans changed. I was disappointed at first, but then, as fate would have it, greater things happened to one of the other three, surprise celebratory things that were more urgent than our gathering. We rescheduled for two weeks later. Our plans could wait; hers couldn’t.
It has been several years since the four of us got together, which is way too long.
There are no substitutes for college friends, friends who were with us in a formative, challenging and memorable time in our lives. Gail, Suzanne and I are lucky to have them in our lives still, and for all three of us, this was the week to celebrate them—or at least make a plan to.
I hope that if you have old friends from college or from long ago, you have kept in touch with them. If you have been wanting to connect again, now would be a great time do to just that. I hope that if something were to happen to them, you would be at peace with the way you left your relationship. In reflecting on this myself, I don’t know if any of us can ever feel we did enough. We all lead splintered lives; we all have other priorities. We simply need to make the time to spend time.
Easier said than done, but continuing to try is the key.
I remember that many of Gail’s friends used the same word to describe her: “crazy.” It was always used fondly. She was crazy in the sense that she always loved a good time.
I remember that my Jewish neighbor-turned-friend in Philadelphia used to call me “meshugana.” In her colorful Yiddish language, it means “crazy girl. I took it as a compliment. She meant it as one.
This week, I am hosting my Arizona friends from long ago. Not college friends, but the friends who come every Independence Day week to visit. They were the young girls I babysat on their father’s farm near mine in the summers starting the summer before college in 1984—35 years ago. We have remained close, and now they bring their children and husbands—whoever can make it. This year it is three girls and one husband. While I used to be in charge of them, we are now peers in every way. They have known me longer than my husband has; longer than my college friends have. They know me too well. They see through me; I can’t hide much. They also bring out things I didn’t know I could do—good things like finding the stamina to stay up later to get the most out of every evening, as well as things I didn’t think I could ever do, like get the tattoo they talked me into getting with them several years ago. Then we all got another one the next year.
They, too, are crazy girls. Crazy in a very good way.
We will spend the week together, and I will bring you the third installment in a blog post of the annual visit from the swheat girls. Crazy, and sweet. I am so glad they chose to keep me as a friend.
It has been said that friends are the family we choose. I couldn’t have chosen better family if I could have hand-picked my sisters, and I am so thankful I chose the college roommates I did. I know Gail and Suzanne are grateful for theirs, too.
Give your college/old friend a call. Better yet, make a visit.
Enjoy your sweet freedom this Independence Day, and every day.