The Test of Time
By Rose Ann Sinay
For nearly thirty years we’d lived in the same house – a comfortable, gray cape with a long, white, spindled porch. A red door and mounded pots of colorful petunias, strategically placed, declared it ours. But it was more than just flowers and color that made it a home.
We had already started a family when we built our house. Later, we added a den, a garage and a pool. We planted the tiny trees and shrubs that would, now, be very mature plantings. We made good friends that shared the same interests. They were the special ones that came to all milestone events, picnics, camping trips and dinners; the ones who, year after year, appeared in family pictures with changing, dated hairstyles and disappearing mustaches. Our house had become our home with the addition of family and true friends…the building blocks of a happy life.
We started out together as young, working couples raising families. Thrown together by nursery school tea parties and pee wee soccer practices, relationships were unconsciously nurtured by our children’s choice of friends and vague high school recollections of their parents (Hey, I remember you…).
Together, we coached our kids’ soccer and baseball teams and ate pizza and hot dogs for dinner at the local café after practice. We attended town meetings, fighting for the school budget and shorter bus routes. We led their Brownie and Cub Scout troops. We became great friends, making a difference in our community and a place in each other’s lives.
So, when we made the decision to move after our early retirement, it was with sadness that we were leaving them behind. At our last dinner together, I couldn’t help but wonder if we were making a mistake.
Tears were shed; promises were made; long, frequent visits were to follow. We refused to entertain the thought that time and distance could possibility erode our special connection.
Time passed and reality sat down between us. Visits on both sides were cancelled and rescheduled for that “let me check my calendar and get back to you” date. Surgeries, soaring flight prices, work schedules…life just got in the way. Calls dwindled to once every other month.
Meanwhile, new friendships were kindled. With more time at our disposal and a community full of people redefining themselves, it was easier than ever to cultivate interests. Relationships that took years to develop while we worked and raised families, now blossomed in months.
I related to our new friends with comparisons of the old. “Don’t they remind you of Pat and John,” I would ask my husband. Or, Kate used to always say that would cross my mind when I heard one of her clichés repeated by an acquaintance. I missed my buddies.
When my son and his fiancée requested a guest list for their wedding, I was conflicted. Who did we invite? They had met our new friends. They had partied and golfed with them. And, for six years we have talked about our neighbors in our telephone conversations. Our kids thought our new pals were fabulous; but there was no history, no memories, no personal back-story.
On the other hand, it had been many years since we had seen our old friends, together, as a group. The gap, rendered by our departure, had long since healed over. Would they even want to make the long drive to the wedding, pay for a hotel and use up their precious leisure time from work? Were we still relevant?
Suddenly, it was crystal clear. The list was compiled; the invitations were addressed and mailed.
There was much to be happy for on that special day. Our son was marrying a fantastic woman; we were gaining a daughter, as well as her wonderful family. And, hopefully, we were going to see our old friends – friends that had shared in our son’s life in one way or another. Friends who knew he loved to catch bugs as a young boy, make trails in the woods behind our old house and who had eaten his birthday cakes in the shape of trains, robots and turtles. They were the surrogate family that had drawn pictures on our son’s cast when he broke his arm and cheered him on at soccer games.
They had replied to the invitation; they were all coming. I was both excited and nervous. Would it be awkward? Would we have anything to say to each other?
We waited at the open doors to greet our friends as they arrived at Elm Court Mansion. I spotted them at a distance, as they walked up the long driveway. I could hear Judi’s familiar giggle and felt an anxious flutter in my chest. Pat, my favorite “do gooder,” walked with a slight limp from her recent surgery. I saw Kate’s smiling face as she animatedly waved hello. Judith arrived with the camera around her neck that had captured so many important and unimportant moments in the past. Lenny, Reda, Chris and John sported hair streaked with more gray than I remembered and looked very distinguished in their suits and ties.
After the ceremony, we gathered around a table and poured over the picture albums that I had brought from home. It was so natural – easy – all the years just melted away. We laughed and reminisced about the good old days and reveled at how thin we looked in the photos.
We came across a picture of the group of us gathered around a bonfire. The kids were unidentifiable blurs as they ran past still images of adults holding soda cans (or was it beer?). Orange flames reflected in our eyes. The younger “us” wore dorky smiles; arms were draped over shoulders in comradely affection. It told the whole story. I was silly to have worried. Our lives were forever interwoven; they were a part of us. Our friendship hadn’t disappeared; it was simply suspended in time and renewed with
About this writer
- Rose Ann Sinay lives in North Carolina with her husband and dog where she spends her time writing. Her children graciously continue to provide her with moments worth preserving.