Today I'm driving five hours upstate to see my best friend from grammar school. I haven't seen her in 30 years, and we only reconnected in April (luckily, I opened that e-mail instead of deciding it was spam!). To be honest, I never thought I'd ever pick up the phone and say, "Hello, Mr. A? It's L. Is K. there?" again. I mean, when your last contact was in 1975...

Anyway, we're getting together. I'll meet her husband and three kids (definitely not part of her life all those years ago!) And we'll have the opportunity to trip down memory lane some. We've already done that a little via e-mail; she remembers huddling like molecules during recess in 4th grade!

Still, there's a part of me that's very apprehensive. The past few times I've done the face-to-face with an on-line friend haven't always worked out well. One person decided that I was "severe and terrifying", two others have been very disappointing (nothing like their on-line personae). Rarely has it worked out where what I fell in love with - the words, the "sound" of their voice - meshed with the physical reality. And, in this case, we've got the whole used-to-be-best-friends thing to trip us up - what if there's nothing there that says, "yes, this is the person I knew back then", nothing that validates my choice of friends (even at the tender age of 9)?

Several months ago I met one of my father's best friends from "back in the day" (apparently there were seltzer and toilet paper-soaked-in-bleach fights in their apartments on the Grand Concourse - I can understand why H. was banned from my grandmother's!). My father is one of those true-blue people, always trying to see the best in others and sticking with friends he knew "back then" because, well, they're a tie to his past and who he was. I honestly don't think it occurs to him that some of these people aren't the types of people he'd care to know now - he knew them then, and that's good enough.

Me, I'm not so forgiving of flaws. I don't want K. to have flaws. I'm not saying I want to play Barbie with her, either. But I do want that sense of connecting now with someone important to me then. The same sense of connection I have with many of my friends from prep school (except I see them at least every 5 years).

I wonder how many of you have been in similar situations. How have you felt after?


Karmon said...

I have a picture in my head of two mature women, sitting in Starbucks, playing Barbies. :)

Sherri said...

I've been luckier than most, I gues, in meeting people I've known online and having it work (that's how I met my husband, after all). I don't know what it is exactly except that I walk into face-to-face meetings with every expectation of having reality be harder than online.

As for meeting old friends, I assume that friendship, like anything else alive, can die. My oldest friendship needs occasional care, pruning, watering, etc. It helps that I can still see some of her 7th grade self in the woman I know now. Other friendships I simply let die naturally. It's the way things work.

Lazygal said...

The visit went well. We still look/sound like we did "back then", which is both reassuring (we haven't changed) and scary (we haven't changed). It was a fun few hours, and I'm looking forward to doing it again in the summer, when they next venture upstate.