Reunion

These are my people. More specifically, these are my college people. Not all of them, mind you, although we did attend a small liberal arts university in the woods of New Jersey.

We, my people and I, have been places – London, Amsterdam, Rutland, Las Vegas, assorted diners, bars and athletic fields.

We have done things. Surfed couches. Mixed cocktails. Danced madly. Talked deep into the night. Fell extravagantly in love. Pushed one another to our limits. Wrestled while intoxicated. Spooned. Hiked. Roadtripped. Hooked up. Broke up. Bucked up.

Degrees were earned. Jobs won and lost. People died and babies arrived.

In other words, life: in all of its imperfect perfectness.

And in July, we came back together – in two houses, up a dirt road in Vermont. And in a jam packed, joy-filled 48-hours, this magical band of people filled my belly, mind and heart.

As a writer, I should have more words for those 48 hours, these feelings, than this, but they seem somehow sacred. Perhaps because we are so much older now, and our lives have taken turns and been shaped in ways we can’t know because we are in the midst of them. Because there are deadlines and commitments and responsibilities that could easily keep us apart. Because we know how easy it is to slip from one another’s reach.

Perhaps this is why it’s such an exquisite gift to enter a room of friends you haven’t seen in years, with whom you share time and life and memory – and be embraced, exactly where and as you are.

Home

I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey in a small town called Berkeley Heights. It’s very easily whizzed by if you’re traveling at high speed on Interstate 78.

I attended public school and graduated high school with 140 kids, many of whom I have known since elementary school. When Facebook began taking over the universe, I reconnected with tons of people from home, amazed at how everyone had grown up. Now, it’s a pretty normal occurrence to skim Facebook and see the photos of  babies, dogs, vacations, and homes of the same people I played kickball with so long ago.

Almost two weeks ago, I received a group message that one of the girls I grew up with had suffered a massive heart attack. The message was sent by her best friend, the same best friend she had when we were in grade school. Over the past two weeks, we’ve received regular updates on her condition (please think healing thoughts). And while the initial reason for getting us all in contact was and is frightening and upsetting on so many levels, it is also full of joy, nostalgia and gratitude.

Because along with our fear and concern, we’ve gathered up armfuls of laughter and childhood memories. Photos have been posted, like this one:

Circa 1982. Attitude courtesy of Pat Benatar, Joan Jett and Madonna.

It’s funny, a while back I wrote about the collective power and energy of this same band of girls from my childhood. And just as we did then, here we are again, shoring each other up with laughter and a certain kind of gratitude that perhaps comes from the place where we first tested our boundaries and ourselves: a town where you could play outside until your parents called you home, a place with creeks to cross and small mountains to climb, a place where the kids you knew become the people you always want to know. Home.

 

Day 27: Bowl Cuts of the ’70s, Unite!

If you’ve been following along, this post is part of a (nearly) once-a-day-month-long-blogging-brouhaha with my pals Amanda Hollinger, Monica Wyche, and Ami Worthen.

We idolized our older brothers and had a passion for the Bay City Rollers. Forgive us our haircuts, which to be fair, were very hip for the time. Also, we’re sitting in my sister’s bean bag chair. Can you just smell the 1970s or what?

The bowl haircuts that play together stay together.
She who started a hair revolution.

Day 24: Tunes with my dudes

If you’ve been following along, this post is part of a (nearly) once-a-day-month-long-blogging-brouhaha with my pals Amanda Hollinger, Monica Wyche, and Ami Worthen.

Perhaps one of the greatest answering machines greetings ever: the one my friend Koz left on our friend Brian’s family’s answering machine. The opening to this song served as background music. Solid gold.

Memory: driving fast in Koz’s car, windows open, singing this.

This one’s for Patrick, my U2 soul mate.

Memory: Koz, Brian, a bottle of Jaegermeister, and a broken light. Oh, and this. You can call it just another summer night during college.

Day 17: The gift of insurance

If you’ve been following along, this post is part of a (nearly) once-a-day-month-long-blogging-brouhaha with my pals Amanda Hollinger, Monica Wyche, and Ami Worthen.

Unbeknownst to me, I would meet two of my best friends in one of the more unlikely places…in insurance. I will always remember the day I met Trish and Andy. I was entering a department populated entirely by intelligent, good looking, well dressed women who were also kick ass copywriters slinging words to sell insurance.

Gulp.

I was the merest bit nervous.

I needn’t have been. In the early days of our friendship, they both endeared themselves to me in their own way, Trish with her gentle guidance; Andy with her sarcasm.

In the months and years to come, we grew to adore, depend on, and consult one another on everything from buying cars to taglines to relationships to babies. Sometimes all in the same conversation.

Also, they are great fun, as evidenced below.

Charlie's Angels pose. The resemblance is stunning, no?

We live far apart these days, but they are as much a part of my heart as ever.

Friends. Copywriters. Partners in crime.

I thank Trish for always being an example of grace under pressure, for showing me the value of organization, and for one of the greatest laughs in the history of the world. This song will always reminds me of her.

To Andy, I give thanks for lessons in boundary-setting, spiritual guidance, head squeezes, and for reminding me to always sing…full voice.

 

Day 10: right back where we started from

This post is part of a once-a-day-month-long-blogging-extravaganza with my pals Amanda Hollinger, Monica Wyche, and Ami Worthen.

It’s the summer of 1978 and my best friend Michael and I are singing and dancing together to Maxine Nightingale’s “Right Back Where We Started From.”

This was nowhere near our idea.

Our sisters, five years older than we, took special delight when we were little in finding new and interesting ways to make us perform, entertain and otherwise serve them. This often involved Michael and me holding hands and trying desperately to remember intricately choreographed dance numbers.

It sounded sort of like this:

My sister: “No, do the turn now! Okay, kick! Higher!

Michael’s sister: “Hahahaha! Okay, now hug each other! Hahahahahaha.”

The better news was that our performances garnered us access to areas usually off limits to us, i.e. Michael’s older sister Laura’s room, which seemed rather like heaven with shag carpet.

Also, Michael made up for my painful shyness with his exuberant energy and constant willingness to be a clown for the joy he received getting me to laugh.

It’s one of the many reasons I love him. Because he still does it.

As you might imagine, I cannot hear Ms. Nightingale’s hit without immediately being transported to that bedroom where Michael and I performed for our sisters, an array of stuffed animals, and hunky posters of 1970s heartthrobs.

In our 20s, Michael and I became roommates, sharing expenses, dinners, and making each other the occasional mix CD. One song is a constant on every mix.

Relatively certain

For those of you following along, I’m doing a post a day all month long as part of a blogging blood pact (I mean, challenge) with my pals Amanda Hollinger, Monica Wyche, and Ami Worthen. The theme is relative.

As in, I’m relatively certain that I have the finest assortment of friends around, as evidenced by the fact that they will bring a flat version of me (see Flat Jenny below) to exciting events that I cannot attend. In fact, it seems that the flat version of me gets to places the real me can only dream about. Those are the breaks, kids.

Flat Jenny loves her friends and a night out on the town

 

February blog challenge

My dear friend Amanda laid down the blog-shaped gauntlet to Ami, Monica, and me on Twitter: a post a day for the month of February.

Spoiler alert, I’ve already blown it.

I fell asleep last night after a long day and a delicious taco with side of laughter at Taco Spot with my pal Becca before I had the chance to post. However, I believe in quick, decisive redemption and will slip in an extra post on March 1. Problem solved.

This blog post challenge, inspired by NaBloPoMo, even has a theme: relative. Ahem, commence post now.

Although I don’t think they ever voiced it aloud, my parents taught me by example to treat my friends like family. Maybe my parents developed such strong friendships because they were so far from each of their extended families. Maybe they were simply fortunate to find such wonderful characters and souls with which to surround us and themselves. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful, and as such, have lived my life in much the same way, with an indispensable group of friends who entertain, challenge, accept, love, and (nearly) keep me sane.

Today, I introduce you to Becca: she of the brilliantly penned line, the raised eyebrow, always quick to laugh. I love your face! (and you know, everything else) I give you several scenes from our friendly escapades.

Gin grins.

 

Slightly prom-y. Slightly scandalous.

 

Black tie, with moustaches.

 

Let's get physical, physical.

 

Moonlit Ride

Dear Dad,

Because I don’t have your opinion to ask anymore, I often feel uncertain. My self-esteem sometimes gets tied up and dependent upon silly things that seem crucial at that particular moment. Later, I shake my head at myself for doubting my capabilities and capacities. I try to think of things you said to me years ago when I was in doubt, or in tears. I make decisions more quickly now, but I don’t feel confident in many of them. I make them, and hope, if they’re wrong, they will quickly reveal themselves as such. This is part of it – the loss of you. Me feeling uncertain about me because you are not here. Me feeling somehow unsafe. I could not have guessed how those feelings would and have manifested. Mostly because the way in which they manifest differs daily, vastly.

More than two years ago, two friends and I drank a bottle of gin, piled onto a moped and took off downtown to “watch the moon rise over the water.” At first, I protested, still lucid enough to realize the inherent danger and stupidity of this undertaking. I quickly caved to the collective “come onnnnn…”

As we three drove over the bridge, I told my friend that my butt was, in fact, falling off the back of the moped and soon the rest would follow. “I’m falling off,” I said urgently. She responded by silently gripping my butt with both hands.

I didn’t fall.

I remember looking down at the asphalt as we sped on, thinking how quickly everything could go horribly wrong. No one with a helmet. All of us careless, yet somehow carefree.

I was certain you were watching this from wherever you are. The moon, always my sign for you, was out, big as a beach ball, lighting up the water. I imagined first that you were angry – then, laughing.

I was much too old to be doing something so reckless, so stupid. And yet, somehow, I felt alive in my fear, exhilarated by the knowledge that I was purposely doing something I knew was dangerous and irresponsible.

For some reason, I had to feel like I could actually die. To see if you would save me? So you didn’t seem quite so dead?

I don’t know the answer to that. Maybe the gin does.