My best friend from high school posted a picture of us recently on Facebook. We were 14 or 15 at the time and sitting in the photo booth in Greene’s department store.
For mere pocket change we could have a silly, good time making faces, or trying to look serious, or giving each other bunny ears without the other one knowing until the photos popped out of the machine. Sometimes we would see how many of our friends we could fit in the picture with us, even though it was frowned upon by the clerks … if they caught us.
It was a gas. Yeah, that’s how we talked back then, some 50 years ago. “Peace, brother,” “Right on,” and “Out of sight man” were phrases said on a daily basis as we navigated the world we were growing into. We were too young for the sexual revolution, the need for burning bras, and the hippie life in general so we watched from a safe distance and tried to make sense of it. Most of it didn’t stir us up but it helped us realize who we were by what did.
It was without a doubt the most peaceful time of our lives. We were old enough to go off on our own but not yet old enough to have responsibilities that would hold us back. We walked all over town looking for some action: finding places we didn’t know existed, running into classmates, watching a ballgame at the fort — something I didn’t know you could do without an invitation because that’s how naïve I was.
We wore bellbottoms, Indian sandals and big smiles. We went through boyfriends and breakups together. There were too many sleepovers to count, though little sleep was had. We discovered great music by Cat Stevens, Carole King, Elton John, Helen Reddy and so many more! The music resonates with me still and I belt them out without reservation when I listen to the oldies station.
When I drive past the neighborhood where we lived, just four blocks from each other, I get a catch in my heart for what is now missing. And should there be an old song on the radio at the time, well I get so melancholy I can hardly stand it. It’s as if someone else lived that life, or maybe that life has been put into the witness protection program. Either way, I miss it very much.
Maybe it would be easier if she had stayed here, and we could continue making memories so the old ones don’t hurt so much.
Instead, we call each other occasionally to catch up on our kids, grandkids, bad hips and indigestion. It’s a totally different relationship now. But then one of us brings up the past and we laugh at how funny we were, or cringe at our ignorance in the moment. We are astonished at how meek we were back then compared to now. Motherhood will do that to a person.
It’s hard to believe I used to stick my head out of the car window and bark like a dog as she drove us up and down Utica Street with her father’s car. She would laugh so hard at it that I continued to abase myself for weeks.
She can’t believe she tried to hail down cars to help her friend lying in a snowbank after a supposed accident, or that I continued to lay in that snowbank freezing my butt off because no one would stop. Until someone did, and then we ran like crazy.
There were prank phone calls, tandem bike rentals, accidents and stitches, but never any broken bones.
One memory leads to another and another until we’re laughing so hard we’re crying or wetting our pants. Old age will do that to you, too.