I have felt quite untethered since returning from England. I miss the social, cultural, and academic opportunities that I could easily access there. While the familiarity of home certainly comforts me, the reverse culture shock that friends warned me of has certainly slowed the settling in process.
I find what solders the disconnected wires most efficiently is not the scenic Saugatuck, the numbingly familiar five mile stretch of (My Life on the) Post Road, or even the breathtaking Compo Beach and its buried treasure trove of waiting sea glass. It’s the people who have known me for longer than some of my best friends in England have been alive.
Last weekend, the sun broke through the dreary rain as I spent time with a few of them. On Saturday, my sister and I wound our way through tony Fairfield and Westchester Counties’ horse country to find ourselves at the bustling Beehive Restaurant in Armonk for lunch with some of our oldest family friends. Our parents are gone, so we especially cherish them because they knew them well and can share memories with us. We would take family vacations to Lake George together, and spend Christmas Eve with their large, loving Italian clan for the Feast of the Seven Fishes, angel tips (espresso with cream streamed in slowly over a teaspoon), and gag gifts. I have never seen my parents laugh as long and hard as they did at these gatherings, both of them, tears rolling down their cheeks in a hysteria of giggles. We have nicknames that we only use with each other, even though we’re grown, serious J adults: Joe-Fish, we call their oldest son, because Jo-seph must have just been too tangling for our young tongues. We caught up and walked down memory lane over omelets. “Mom and dad would be so happy that we got together, let’s do it again before too long,” we said as we hugged goodbye.
On Sunday, I shuttled into the city to see high school friends for brunch at the Bryant Park Grill, overlooking the dismantled holiday market stalls and the pop up skating rink. One of my first serious boyfriends, and my BFF, these two collectively know more about me than almost anyone else. And I pay them well to keep it that way.
No matter how much time elapses between meetings, we fall back into conversation as easy as those we had over endless pots of coffee in rust-colored plastic carafes at Howard Johnson’s restaurant at exit 135 on the Garden State Parkway. How those waitresses must have hated us. We sat forever, spent little, and probably tipped less.
These people know me in a way that only time can curate. Like my friendship of 40-plus years with my college roommate, it just improves with age, like fine red wine. Time brings out nuances, and deepens the flavors. We communicate in a rare shorthand, a shared lexicon that allows for a level of understanding that is so gratifying.
These are all more than friends. Our roots go deep, and we share a history that binds us, not in a constricting way, but more like a hug. They provide a safety net for me when that untethered feeling unbalances me. I know they’ll be there to catch me if I fall.
Photo by Diane Lowman