It was vanity that made me dig around in the closet for a black sandal to match my purse. I wasn’t dressing up, but I’m old school and still pair the bag and shoes. All this mismatched stuff is unsettling, along with the new permission to wear white after Labour Day! The sandals had a nice height to the heel, adding a few inches to elongate and camouflage my widening body. I wanted to look my best on this momentous day.
Usually Sundays are for sleeping and here I was up and bathed in the early morn and out the door before noon, a testament to the eagerness for what lay ahead. I was meeting a childhood friend that I hadn’t seen in 40 years, and today, along with lunch, we would serve one another a condensed version of our lives, filling in forty years’ worth of blanks. I've thought about and waited for this moment for a long time but now that it was finally here I was nervous. Past conditioning doesn’t allow me to walk into a situation unprepared so I focused on the shoes to ground me. No matter what the day would hold, the shoes matched the purse and that glue would hold me together!
This reunion was down to fate; a happenstance that blows my mind. I truly believe the universe brought us together, how else could it be explained? Months ago, in a nostalgic mood, I wrote a blog about my school days and friends that made an impact on my life. Number one being Cheryl Benedict. I’ve thought of her a lot over the years, wondering where she might be and what she might be doing. Other classmates didn’t seem to know what happened to her, or they had incomplete information that didn’t pan out. It was a mystery, a puzzle with missing pieces that I longed to gather.
The trauma of my first marriage messed up a lot of memories and for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d talked to Cheryl or the reason we drifted apart. My recollections are fuzzy, comparable to Swiss cheese, more holes than not. I’d left school in grade ten to marry and give birth, barely in that order, and was under the thumb of a very controlling, abusive man. Constantly trying to dodge bullets, it left little time to pursue friendships or outside interests.
In 2014, after trying without luck to find her by internet search, one weekend, I dusted off a few memories and wrote a story about my friend. On a Monday, I posted the blog and the next day I was floored to receive an email from Cheryl Benedict! I couldn’t believe it! An old school chum living in the US saw the post on Facebook, followed the link to my blog, read it and forwarded it on. She wrote that she hadn’t gone by her maiden name for some time and coincidentally said she had been thinking of me that past weekend. I think the universe was at work here! We messaged back and forth for a basic catch-up on Facebook and knew we would meet for a face to face in the near future.
Cheryl planned on a visit to Nova Scotia this summer but a family emergency prompted flying in from Calgary early to help with her mom’s medical affairs. We connected briefly at my shop and when she walked through the door, I recognized her instantly. She was exactly as I remembered; I could have picked her out of a lineup blindfolded. She was with her mother so there wasn’t much time to talk so we said we would connect later and then scheduled a meeting in the valley for the following Sunday afternoon.
It was interesting to note that our lives seem to be running a parallel marathon. With similar experiences under our belts it never felt like I was talking to a stranger, even though that is what we were. Four decades is a very long separation, but I was transported back to our childhood; she was the same girl I hung with all those years ago. Her facial expressions and hand gestures were so familiar it was difficult to believe that almost half a lifetime had passed. I always liked the way her fingers brushed away her hair, I don’t know why that stands out but it does. I’ve always noticed fingers and hands, I find them fascinating.
Cheryl is a symbol of all things good from a long line of past troubles. She sort of represents the calm before the storm. I need to revisit a part of my life that didn't have darkness associated with it. Remembering back, her friendship made me feel normal. My parents were always so paranoid that something would happen to me they kept me in a bubble. I wasn't allowed to hang out with kids my age, do the things they did like go swimming over by the bridge, or play inter-mural sports or travel on the bus to play basketball in other schools. I spent a lot of summers in bed or hanging in my room with nothing more than my over-active imagination to transport me past those walls. Mom always said she knew where I was but that kind of seclusion was unhealthy for social growth. There must have been something about Cheryl they liked and trusted because I was allowed to go to her house after school; and she came to mine; a rare permission. We did do some sneaky things though, as all kids do, like buzzing around the harbour on a cute guys power boat. Dad would have had a stroke knowing I was out on the water without a life jacket and the swimming ability of a rock attached to a cement block. Quite frankly I was scared silly too not knowing what would be worse, my parents finding out or drowning!
Back in the day, Cheryl played the guitar. We both played but she was better at finger picking while I was more of a strummer. We wrote a song together called Candy Cone Mountain, the title is all I remember and probably the lyrics were as sappy as the name, some foolish love thing for the boy crushes of the time. We entered a talent contest once and probably sang “Killing Me Softly” a song we practiced regularly but I'm not 100% sure if that was the tune. We didn’t win the contest but the guts to get up on the stage in front of our peers, strumming guitars and belting out a tune for the entire town was impressive. Our combined voices were softer than a whisper, I wonder if the audience even heard us? We played at being detectives as well, that was my second dream, a backup in case the music thing didn’t pan out. Apparently Cheryl carried on singing but I reserve my talents for the shower walls, they’re much more forgiving and don’t throw tomatoes.
So a couple of Sunday’s ago, we had lunch at a pub and four hours melted away like a Popsicle in summer. It was difficult to part but my pups were home alone and there was an hour’s drive ahead of me. Cheryl had to prepare and freeze meals for her mom and then pack for the trip back to Calgary the following day. Cheryl is a tenured Psychology Professor at Calgary University. I am so proud of her accomplishments and definitely not surprised at her success. I wish geography didn’t keep us apart; it would be wonderful to have the occasional girl’s night, talk about our pasts, our present and our dreams for the future but like she says, she’s only a plane ticket away.
We’ve experienced similar joys and weathered comparable trials. We’ve both reinvented ourselves several times through work and in our personal lives. For me, we are no different than those two younger versions of ourselves. I don’t think either of us is needy. We are independent self-reliant woman who can stand alone so I'm confident we will remain comfortably separated until our next encounter. But, knowing she is out there is comforting, hopefully she feels the same. I can see us ending our days together, feet up on a tropical island, laughing our big derrieres off while sipping something for circulation purposes....enjoying our time together until that final separation.......