“Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold. “ A little song I learned as a Brownie came full circle with a visit from my oldest friend. It’s a long way from Oregon to Louisiana. There’s been years of miles since Kathy left her home at 18 bound for college. We’ve seen each other a dozen or so times since then and have kept loosely in touch. Our correspondence gave us glimpses into each other lives and current on our big life events.
Our friendship is one of those magic ones, when we see each other, the years melt away and we connect with our old familiar friendship, no matter how different our lives are or how many years have slipped away. Kathy spent her visit between me and another old friend whose family friendship goes back further than our childhood. It took our buddy who lives so far away to get the two of us who only live a few miles from each other together.
Over dark, rich coffee at an old college diner, we shared our long buried memories of friends, school, pets, and the neighborhood we grew up in. Afterwards Kathy and I drove slowly up and down the streets of the town and went to visit some moms and dads, now in their 80’s, who raised us all. This time of year in Louisiana is lush and green. The crepe myrtles and magnolia trees are in full bloom with hot pink and white blossoms. It’s easy to forget the beauty of this river town.
It’s only with hindsight that I understand why it was important for Kathy to visit her childhood friends’ parents. In every visit with everyone we spent time with, it came up what a great neighborhood we grew up in. It was filled with young families in their first home. Our young years were spent with stay-at-home-moms and we walked to elementary school. We rode our bikes to each other’s houses with doors that stayed unlocked, had simple birthday parties with cake and ice cream, sleepovers, and lots of little girl giggles. We remembered old house numbers and old phone numbers (well…some of us). A remembrance of my dad having to “rescue” Kathy and her bike when she got suck in mud on her way to play with me made us smile.
The darkest thing that we had awareness of was that Kathy’s mom, our Girl Scout leader, died of cancer when we were 10. I was too young to comprehend how devastating that was to my young friend and those days it was believed the best way to deal with it, was by not talking about it. But all the parents understood the depth of this tragedy and all loved this little girl more than any of our other friends. I still felt that love with each hug that greeted us on our visits. My mom still calls her Little Kathy.
Many of us from that childhood neighborhood stayed friends as our families moved into newer neighborhoods with bigger homes and we went to different high schools. We shared those teen memories of driving and dating and first forbidden tastes of alcohol. I’m an only child and she’s the friend my parents invited on family vacations when I was a teenager, so they could enjoy their vacation and not have a bored teen spoiling their fun.
We’ve all lived full lives, each with it own ups and downs, blessings and challenges. What continued to come across in conversation was the gratitude for the lives we have led. It does indeed take a village to raise a child. With adult eyes, I realize that old neighborhood with it’s tree-lined streets was a true village. It raised us all and the safety and love that lived there, still lives on in each of us.
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