If you had told me that we weren’t going to travel together for another 20 years, I wouldn’t have complained about the ‘burnt’ smell of your beloved Corn Nuts.
The year was 1997, and we were leaving on a charter bus to march in the half-time show at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. I played clarinet and she was in the color guard. We were the pride of Southeast High School in Bradenton, Florida.
My best friend Kelly and I have made memories in Washington, D.C., six countries in Europe, and the 1997 Sugar Bowl half-time show. Those were all trips we took together in high school, the place where we met.
As we begin planning our first trip since then, I have to wonder… what took us so long?
Life happens. We went from passing notes in-between classes, to writing emails to each other on the same college campus. I was a member of the Marching Chiefs at Florida State University, working at the campus bookstore and spending time with a friend’s fraternity. She thrived at a campus sorority, focused on academics and spending time with her roommate.
We were (gulp) becoming adults and face-to-face interaction faded away. I honestly don’t remember how we reconnected before our 10th high school reunion in 2007.
It was probably because Kelly kept the same AOL email account that we used all those years ago. We spent late nights giggling and exploring chat rooms (that we probably shouldn’t have been in) during sleepovers at her house.
Now, she’s a successful executive on Florida’s east coast – and when the biggest news of my life came along in 2011, I knew that I had to deliver it in-person. While the world was (and still is) heavily involved in Facebook, she is not. Absolutely no social media footprint. So, my mom and I went to West Palm Beach for a visit.
We were 32. As the waitress took our drink order, Kelly said, “Why aren’t you drinking (a cocktail)?” I remained silent. “Well,” I said. “I have something to tell you.” She immediately began to cry… she knew. I was pregnant.
That’s one of the most memorable moments of my life.
Besides my mom, and my child’s father… she was the first to find out. Even though we had so much distance in our lives, I knew that she would be my biggest supporter.
Months before I had my son, I came home from a stressful day. At the time, I was working in television news – an industry which weighed heavily on my heart. I arrived home to see a giant box leaning outside the front door of our condo. It was a crib… from Kelly. I’ve never cried so many tears of joy. Such an unforgettable gift. We were so grateful.
Last year, when the 20th high school reunion reminders began appearing on Facebook, I knew what I wanted to do. While it would be fun to reminisce with old friends, I wanted to mark the special occasion differently. So, Kelly and I are traveling to Chicago this week. It’s our second try, after getting postponed because of a hurricane.
It’s the first time we’ve planned a trip on our own. It’s the first time I will be away from my five-year old for more than two nights. We’ll likely have a cocktail in Wrigleyville, take a twighlight cruise around the city and gaze at the giant mirrored bean in Millenium Park.
Initially, I questioned whether I should go. I often feel guilty for spending money on myself since becoming a mom. We’re saving to buy a house, need new furniture, etc. — but I realize that this is important too.
If you don’t take care of yourself, or your friendships, no one else will.
Clearly, this trip is going to be good for both of us. We can have each other’s undivided attention for four days (besides the occasional FaceTime call I expect to receive from my son).
There will be no one to duct-tape our door closed (to prevent us from sneaking out) like our marching band trips; no reason to sneak a sip of alcohol from a hotel room tea cup (because we were 16), like we did in London.
I’ll never forget the night in Switzerland that she washed her jeans in the bathtub, and then set the alarm every two hours so that she could swing them, around and around, until they were dry. I’ve already warned her to bring two pairs.
Geez, we’ve had some memories… time to make some more. And after that, who knows?
It took the invitation of a 20th high school reunion to remind me of what’s important. Don’t let your friendships fade away — like the smell of a burnt snack — in your memory.