September 6, 2017

Old Friends

By Mary Schricker Gemberling

“Happiness is being with an old friend after a long time and feeling nothing has changed!”

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook!  I hate that far too many users choose to air their dirty laundry in public, but I love the connection it gives me to family and friends. For example, I enjoy when my friend in California, who I have not seen for many years, posts pictures of her grown sons who I knew as children. I love that a family member posted 40 pictures this morning of our recent family vacation in South Carolina. I get to follow my travel agent on her adventures around the world. And I get to re-connect with friends from my past….which is exactly what happened last month.

A couple of years ago Gary and I were driving through Georgia on our way to Florida when I mentioned that my childhood friend Sue used to live in the Atlanta area. He suggested that I try to find her on Facebook. Within a few minutes I had located her and sent a message. She quickly responded, and before long two other mutual friends joined our conversation and the fearsome foursome from good old Ritenour High had resurfaced. We continued to share bits and pieces of our lives on Facebook until we decided a reunion was in order. This was no easy task, since we lived in four different states – Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, and Illinois!  My invitation to come to Atlanta, Illinois was well received and on a very warm Thursday afternoon in July at the Bloomington Illinois airport weeks of planning and anticipation came to fruition! It had been 30 years since we had all been together.

After long overdue hugs and greetings, and retrieved luggage, we headed to the car.  We stopped for a bite to eat before I drove to our log home “in the middle of nowhere”; a quiet and peaceful respite from the larger metropolitan areas where the other three lived. After a cursory array of questions and information and a glass or two of wine, they decided to tackle a bit of jet lag and head to bed. More meaningful conversation pervaded most of the next morning and afternoon while we caught up on thirty years of living. Absent was any awkwardness born of years and years of different lives, in different locations. We ate and drank, talked and laughed, and then laughed some more!

During the four day visit, I played tour guide and gave them a glimpse of life in central Illinois. Their comments about the height of the corn, real cows in the field, and being awakened at 7 a.m. by the crop dusting plane reminded me that I was the only one of the four who had turned from city to country girl!  I cooked some meals; we ate out a bit; shopped a little and played cards every evening, a vestige of our college days. We reminisced about growing up together in Overland, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. The pages of our old yearbooks became fodder for “remember when” and “wonder where they are now.” We dusted off the archives of our brains to recall old names and favorite haunts. We laughed about our shortcomings and behaviors of long ago. We were quickly transformed into those young girls in the spring of our lives wearing pleated skirts, dancing to “Surfin USA” by the Beach Boys at the YMCA Friday night dances.

We remembered the excitement of all rooming together in college at Northeast Missouri State and about our parting paths in the ensuing years. We relived both the good times and bad and reflected on the here and now. Despite the very long absence in our friendship, it was truly like we had never been apart. And in some ways beneath all the layers of those years, we were still the same young girls; one on the quiet side, another one funny; one a free spirit and yours truly the
serious one.

To be with these old friends of mine was warming and comforting.  Thank-you Connie, Sue and Joy for reminding me what a blessing old friends can be!

Mary, a former educator and Seniors Real Estate Specialist is the author of three books, The West End Kid, Labor of Love: My Personal Journey through the World of Caregiving, and Hotel Blackhawk; A Century of Elegance.