I rarely think of my town as a 'destination city', but often enough old friends make their way here for a weekend that perhaps I should rethink that. Such was the case over the last few days when one of my closest college roommates (of 11, so the qualifier is necessary)-- the woman with whom I hoisted my backpack and hopped on the trains of Europe back in '82, whose middle name I gave my youngest child--was here with her daughter, checking out Western Washington University as a possible college option. An option for the daughter, I must clarify, though my friend felt some not so slight pangs of envy for the students who sit in classrooms and don't realize what a privilege it is to study all day.
That's just one of the things we share--that deep love of study. One of the many things. Saturday afternoon at my family's favorite tearoom, SKC and I sat together, and were easily reminded of the plethora of things we have in common. When we were young (though honesty, she barely looks older than she did then, and if I was a swearing person--thank God I'm not--I'd swear she actually looks better, more beautiful!!, now than she did then, and that's saying a whole lot, since she was always a pretty pretty woman!), living side-to-side, going to school, church, and sharing practically everything, the ways we looked at the world was clothed in the way we lived. It was easy to conclude we were mirror images in some ways--she was a dancer and I was a writer, both of us artists, both of us always scribbling, one way or another from our right brains in a left-brained world. Well, mirror images but for her facility on the stage and dance floor, and that prettiness of hers, all of which were beyond me, by gift or talent. She'd say, were she sitting here to say it, that there were some things about me that were beyond her as well. Perhaps my intellect, and my intensity in conversation. I don't know. She'd say I tend to swallow the air in the room by the force of my personality. She wouldn't be the first person, and won't, of course, be the last. I know who and what I am. Yet, here's what I also know, that large personality of mine is every bit as much a gift as her prettiness or her gifted feet. Given by God. Not asked for. Sometimes tried to stifle when others point it out as a fault. But I am what He made me. And shouldn't/can't apologize for it, anymore than she can or should apologize for her face or ability to imagine the dance and make her body move to it. Yes, we are what we were made to be, each one of us. The strong and certain ones as well as the quiet and artistic, and together we create something whole and pleasing. I believe this. Between my mirrored friend and me--and also between those others and me who find my large personality a bit too large and choking.
But I digress. Perhaps protesting too much. Sorry.
However, SKC lately directed a theater production, "Shadowlands," about CS Lewis, and I was touched to read, in her director's notes, that she wrote about me. I introduced her to CSL back in college when I was a rather voracious reader of all things Lewis. She told me that she kept thinking of me especially in terms of Lewis's wife, Joy, and tried to get the actor to play her as SKC thinks of me--strong, confident, holding her own intellectually in a company of women. SKC could probably not have given me any greater compliment than that, and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, SKC. Thank you for thanking me for being your inspiration and thank you for inspiring me as well. And, by extension, for showing me how to support and cheer on the one in my life bent toward the arts, her namesake, my own SK.
On Saturday, what was clear is that it doesn't take living side-by-side for us to feel as we did thirty years ago. Conversation flowed, with us jumping all over each other, finishing each other's sentences, laughing at old jokes and new ones as well. It was as sweet as the tea and scone to spend that time with my old friend who looks as she did when we were young and made me feel that way as well. Except that our daughters were sitting at the next table, the ages we were when we met and traveled and loved and lost side by side.
She's lived and lost since then as well, but is well-loved and loving now in her fifties. It was good to see the love on her face and hear it in her voice. There have been battles lost to get to here. But battles won as well. And to hear her speak--of her life, her love, her journey to it--is to hear of victory. I remember once her saying that she (and her brother) was what was left of a dead marriage, and no one bothered to visit the grave anymore. Yes, battles won, my friend. And a life well-lived.