How is it you can spend almost every moment of high school with someone, go to the same college, have that someone in your wedding party, be the closest of friends, then hardly see one another for the next 40 years? How can this happen when you haven’t had a falling out and you live just 8 miles apart?
If I’d kept a journal when I was young, I would know how. But all I have are postcard size datebooks, which Hallmark still gives away, recording in the smallest of print my high school days.
The entries are brief: “Went shopping with Elaine.” “Double dated with Elaine.” “Elaine absent.” “Elaine slept over.” Still, they are proof of how close we were.
We met in high school. We were in the same home room on the second floor of Archbishop Williams in Braintree and were instant friends because we both liked to read books and poetry, and write poems and stories, and we both thought our teacher, Mr. Edmonston, was handsome.
Mr. Edmonston called us Mutt and Jeff, not just because we were inseparable, but because Elaine stood a head above me. He also called us to task all the time for talking in class.
We talked non-stop, all day, every day. We also passed notes back and forth, seldom getting caught. After school, we’d go home, pick up the phone, and talk some more.
“What could you possibly have left to say to each other?” my father yelled at least a million times, before giving me the five-minute warning to get off the phone “or else.”
What did Elaine and I talk about? Boys, mostly: the juniors and seniors whose home rooms were across the corridor from ours. We had crushes on almost all of them and if one even glanced our way, it was fodder for hours of “Do you think he likes me?” “He couldn’t like me.” “But what if he does like me?” Not that it would have done either of us any good to be liked by a boy, because we were not allowed to date until we were 16.
This didn’t stop us from dreaming, however, and imagining and inventing true loves and writing stories about boys — stories culled from books we obsessed over — “Mrs. Mike” our favorite, Sergeant Michael Flanagan, Canadian Mountie and husband of Mrs. Mike, our biggest, longest crush and model for all of our heroes.
Elaine made the cheering team junior year and I didn’t. I was jealous, but we remained friends. The proof is in my datebook, “Elaine came for dinner.” “Elaine and I double dated.” “Junior prom with Chuck and Elaine and Jim.”
But the datebooks ended in 1967 and I got married in 1968 and Elaine got married not long after.
And the years went by.
High school reunions brought us together. And a few special occasions. But nothing else.
There were no more long phone calls, no more talks about heroes and books and poems, no more shared stories and dreams, maybe for no other reason than we were busy with our own families.
What reconnected us a few months ago was my 65th birthday party. It was a night full of family and friends and singers and songs and Elaine came and sat next to the piano and fell in love with the music and all the people who make it.
Now she follows the music to where Michael Kreutz or Brian Patton or Krisanthi Pappas or Jim Rice are playing and singing or Jan Peters or John O’Neil are performing. And every time it’s a party because there is more than music being sung. People are smiling and applauding, friendships are being celebrated, and life is being not just lived, but enjoyed.
I follow the music, too. It has connected us, the songs, the singers, the shared experience of sitting in the same place, among the same group of friends, singing along sometimes, listening most times. It’s like high school, in a way.
But in a good way because we don’t have to make up stories anymore. We have real ones to tell. And because no one is begging us to stop talking, between sets we are telling them and catching up on all the years we missed.