Conscious Aging: Friends Since the Second Grade

We had Miss Fonseca in second grade, and Miss Goodman in third, and Miss Fischer in fourth, and we went all the way through together until we graduated Kearny High School in 1963. That means Laurie and I have been friends since Roosevelt School, when we met in Miss Fonseca’s class. I knew Laurie’s parents and her siblings, and she knew mine. We went to each other’s birthday parties. We shared friends, like Rita and Ralph and Rich and Alan and Connie. We all were in plays together, and wrote for the newspaper together, and went to football games and the dances our high school held after the games. The trajectory of my early life and Laurie’s is as deeply entwined as if we’d been sisters, perhaps more deeply because our experience was contemporaneous — neither was older or younger by more than a few months. Our paths separated at graduation; Laurie went to Cornell in upstate New York, and I stayed in New Jersey and the College of Saint Elizabeth. I didn’t go to class reunions, and we sort of lost touch.

After Jerry died, but before I moved to Seattle, I was the keynote speaker at a big donor dinner at SUNY Geneseo. Part of the entertainment was an a capella group of young singes, students at the college. In my speech I’d mentioned growing up in Kearny, and one of the young women in the group approached me. “My mother grew up in Kearny.”

I looked at her face, and I instantly knew who she was; her mother’s face came into focus in the reflection of her own. “You’re Laurie’s daughter.”

Since then, Laurie and I have seen each other numerous times. I’ve met her husband. She’s just become a grandmother — we share that experience. We pick up on conversation as if we’d seen each other five minutes ago. Hers is a precious friendship.

I have friends I’ve made at every stage of life and kept many of them. All of those friendships are dear to me. But there’s something unique about knowing Laurie since second grade. Almost no one I know now can remember a face and a personality when I say “my mother”. Almost no one I know remembers my father. Our personal history lives only insofar as we have people to hold the frame of that history along with us. Laurie is one of those people for me, and I for her.

That’s why we look so happy to see each other.

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