We only see each other from time to time and that's really a pity. But we take up right where we left off - a natural ability of true good friends. They make me feel I belong to something, to them perhaps, or to the past we share. Who else in one's life remembers a field trip to the zoo in kindergarten? I know every book Paula read, every outfit she wore. I remember her grandmother, her dog, her dolls, her boyfriends. I was there the day her father died. Our only children were born the same year.
I toured their great old cottage on my arrival. It smelled the same - the nostalgic scent of pine walls and the sea and it instantly lodged an aching lump in my throat that didn't disappear until I arrived home at 2:00 am. I lingered on the curved stairway, sat on the double bed Paula and I shared in the back bedroom. The rooms seemed smaller but they were windswept with the white billowing curtains I still see in my dreams. The same faded mirror hung on the wall and I almost glimpsed our 15 year old selves reflected back, our cheeks reddened from the wind and sun and every bit of us the height of loveliness.
We walked to the beach and I found I had forgotten how beautiful it is. Memories flooded back of girls on blankets playing cards, searching for seashells, dabbling with first loves. Poems and songs began to swirl in my head with words and phrases from long ago. It was 1968, 1971, 1973, 1978... the years flipped by like a calendar in an old black and white movie.
At last, Paula took one of my hands in hers and traced her finger over my knuckles. "You have the same hands", she whispered and I suddenly became aware that she does this each time we see one another now. We were as close as sisters and I guess we still are if she feels comfortable enough to perform this sweet gesture on another middle aged woman.
I am so blessed to still have Paula and Rosemary. I am blessed to have a keyhole to peek through from time to time when I want to visit the young girls we once were. I am certain it is heartshaped.
Ah, friends, dear friends, as years go on and heads grow
gray, how fast the friends do go. Touch hands, touch hands, with those that
stay.. Strong hands to weak, old hands to young... Touch hands! Touch hands!
-William Henry Harrison Murray