Monday, June 21, 2010

Friends Forever: The Long Road of Memory

Driving down a Nebraska road, circa July 2006.
Six years ago, in the summer of 2004, in an effort to occupy ourselves and keep each other on friendly terms while out of school, I took a roadtrip into the country of Nebraska (okay, so it's mostly country) with my good friends of the time Andrew, John, and Anthony. There was a mix CD involved (think: Bob Dylan), and it was that summer that I roamed around freely with my friends, exploring the city and exploring the state. Those summers, when I was in college for my undergraduate degree, were some of the best years of my life. I'm not that far from them (2002-2006), but I look back on them nostalgically because I had a sort of careless fancy that makes me smile when something reminds me of those days. Pictures of country roads, memories of figure-8 races out at the county fair, and watching some country boys watch some very uncomfortable indie flicks that made them cringe and leave. There was cheap beer, coffee, long drives, silent moments, and complete happiness.

My first two years of college were surrounded by men, as I found myself most comfortable around my male counterparts. Andrew, Anthony, John, Caleb, Jordan, Ryan, Greg. These were the guys who, when I think of college (the early years), I think of. To be honest, I'm only still speaking semi-regularly to two of them (one made it to my wedding and another who couldn't, but I still love him). I check in on the others on Facebook, several of them married and others enjoying bachelorhood for all its worth.

I took a drive today from our place in the Poconos to Hawley, PA, a mere 20 minute or so schlep, in order to track down a little coffee shop called Cocoon Coffee House. I didn't think there'd be an actual "coffee shop" out in the middle of nowhere like this, but amid antique stores and general stores, here I am, at a coffee shop with some darn good iced coffee (purchased, kindly, by a local who felt bad that I'd waited so long for my coffee). The drive was on long, quiet winding roads overgrown with trees and old houses with quirky mailboxes. I often wonder what kind of people live in villages or towns like this, where you have to drive a half-hour for groceries and hours further for a Target (I'm hooked, what can I say).

Those, of course, are the moments I think back to the people who lived in middle-of-nowhere Nebraska, where figure-8 races were the highlight of the year, cheap beer was like champagne, and mentalities are slow, easy, and mostly kind.

Sometimes, as Morgan Freeman quipped in "Shawshank Redemption," I just miss my friends. The people who helped me find myself and who took me on the adventure of a lifetime, even if it was just eating Thanksgiving dinner at the table of a family in small-ville, Nebraska, or walking around an Omaha art gallery, or watching movies over cheap beer. Making mixed drinks in a dorm room, watching "A Clockwork Orange" with a complete stranger who would become a best friend, and watching late-night MTV just for the music videos. Those were moments that many people in my Orthodox Jewish shoes never got to experience, let alone understand. I'm privileged to have come from where I came from.

I just wish those people, those boys who turned into men before my eyes, were still active participants in my life and I in their's. When we're back together -- at least with the two I speak two off and on somewhat regularly -- it's like old times. Like I'm still me and they're still them. And in reality, I think we are. I might have changed my clothes and my religion and my hair style (as in, well, it's under a hat now), but I'm still me. I still enjoy cheap beer and Woody Allen and the simple things in life. My friends, my men, I think they're also the same.

Because people don't really change, we just grow up, grow apart, and remember, nostalgically, those long drives down Nebraska highways.

Note: I could devote about 30 blog posts or more to my female friends. It took me a little while to make good female friends in college, and I think the firsts were probably Beth and Melanie, followed by Heather and Ananda. I miss them all oodles, and I get to see Heather fairly regularly. She's my fashionista, design diva BFF. College was a funny time for me and friends. I lost a lot of my high school friends as I made more college-side friends. Luckily, two of my closest friends from high school -- Christina and Maryl -- are still good friends to this day. In the photo below you'll see Heather on the left side of the photo (with her hubby), then me and my man, followed by Andrew (mentioned above), and Maryl (with her hubby). Seriously though -- all of my close female friends have basically been 10 feet taller than me. What gives!? So, see, friends can be continuity. Maryl was my oldest friend there; we got our friendship rolling circa 1998. Twelve long years later, I was so happy she could come to my wedding!

If it looks like my dress looks weird, it's because the bussel broke and Tuvia is holding it up in the back :)