To Always Be Her Friend

Do you remember my cryptic reference in last week's Weekly Wrap-Up to "a very exciting event planned for this coming Thursday, June 24 - something I get to do (girls in tow) that very few people similarly experience?" Well, here - as promised - is the story:

St. Francis High School; St. Francis, Wisconsin

A year ago last spring, I received an invitation to my high school class reunion and subsequently reconnected on Facebook with a few classmates. At the same time - no doubt prompted by reminiscing over my high school years - I started thinking about Rose.

Rose was not a high school classmate; instead, she was my best, best friend from elementary school in St. Francis, Wisconsin.

I'd met her in fourth grade at Thompson Elementary School (a building that has since been demolished), when I honestly didn't have any other friends; instead, I was the girl a lot of other kids teased for one reason or another. But Rose befriended me and, as a result, I met Gail and Peggy, who also became good friends. As I later wrote in a high school essay, Rose "was...an extremely loyal and understanding friend. I think it was her especially unwavering loyalty that drew me to her and made me want to always be her friend." And so I have some good memories of my last two years at that school.

But my family moved at the end of my sixth grade year, and, though Rose and I were then only an hour apart, it might as well have been a thousand miles. We kept in touch via occasional letters through junior and senior high, and we communicated enough during college that she knew of my engagement and marriage to my college boyfriend. But the last time we actually saw each other, we were 11 years old.

And then - as things so often go - we lost touch entirely sometime after college.

I thought of her regularly - on her birthday every year and at other times in between - always wondering where she was and what she was doing. But I really had no idea how to reach her since I didn't even remember the names of her aunt and uncle, who'd raised her.

It's no surprise that I thought of her more because of my high school reunion; we would have graduated together from St. Francis High School if I hadn't moved so I figured she was planning to attend her reunion, too - perhaps along with Gail and Peggy.

And then just about a year ago I got a letter...from Rose!

She'd been thinking about me, too, and she knew my married name so she Googled me. And - thanks, I'm sure, to my posts here and my "internet presence" elsewhere - I was easy to find!

We've had fun re-connecting through email and Facebook since then - and it turns out we still have a lot in common. We each married a Jeff, her daughter is virtually the same age as my daughters, and our worldviews are pretty similar.

So when she and her family began planning a trip back home to visit her uncle and siblings - about two hours from where I now live - it was only natural that we decided to try getting together.

And yesterday - June 24 - was the big day! We met up at the county zoo and started our time with a big, long hug. Then we spent six hours meandering around and chatting, as my girls, Rose's husband and daughter, and several of her extended family members enjoyed the exhibits with us.

Rose and her beautiful, almost-eight year old daughter

Abigail and Rachel with "Miss Rose" at the polar bear exhibit

One thing I noticed yesterday - and throughout our interaction over the past year - is that we have a natural connection to each other that defies expectations. One would think - with all the time that's gone by and some different life experiences - that we'd feel at least a little tentative with each other. But, in fact, it didn't seem at all as if it's been literally decades since we last laid eyes on each other. At most, it felt as if we hadn't gotten together in just a year or two - but the conversation flowed freely and the camaraderie was sweet. And, though Rose's daughter was preoccupied this time with cousins she hadn't seen in a few years, Rachel and Abigail quickly took to "Miss Rose," just as if they've known her for years. It was a special day.

It won't be years until we see each other again. I'm hoping to host them here by this time next year, if not sooner, so Rose's daughter and my girls can make a real connection and so that "our two Jeffs" can meet. In the meantime, I look forward to continuing to strengthen our renewed friendship through the gift of cyberspace.

As I alluded to last week, it's not everyone who gets to find her best friend from elementary school; in fact, I'd say it's a pretty rare occurrence, especially nowadays when people are so mobile. But if you're curious about some of your childhood friends, I challenge you to seek them out. You may just find them - and you may be as blessed as I've been by re-connecting.


Jennifer said...

This is the reason I continue with facebook ... I'd rather be connected to childhood friends only through the internet than not at all.

I have actually tried a few times to find a friend that I lost contact with after my family moved. I haven't been able to find her so far, but maybe I should try again!

Jennifer said...

How wonderful for both of you. This is the one thing I LIKE about Facebook. I actually reconnected with my best friend from elementary school. We lost touch when I moved out of state before middle school. The coolest thing was she lives in the NEXT TOWN (and we're not even in the same state we grew up in!) We've had lunches and girls' nights out and playdates with our kids, and even after all these years, we still have so much in common! Glad you found your friend and had such a lovely day getting reacquainted.

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