Old Friends

Okay, so we’re not yet 70, and we’re not men, but my long weekend a couple of weeks ago conjured up, for me, memories of Simon & Garfunkel’s Old Friends.

Four of us, hailing from the west coast, the midwest, the east coast, and rural Ontario, converged in Philadelphia for several days of sightseeing and catching up. We have a personal history together, all growing up in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. Three of us had gone to parochial grade school through high school together from Grade 4; one of us joined in Grade 6. We went our separate ways after high school, but kept up on an irregular and informal basis throughout the years. The internet, of course, has helped.

In 1968, when we first heard S&G’s Old Friends and the other wonderful songs of their album Bookends, we were in the 2nd half of our junior year and 1st half of our senior year of high school. Vietnam was in the forefront. One of us, Anne, was a certified hippy-rebel (at least as much as a hippy-rebel as one could be with the nuns); one of us was a conservative member of the debate team who was the school spokesperson for the election of Richard Nixon (okay, I’ll admit it – that was me); the other two, Barbara & Jane, I’d say, were somewhere in the middle. (As an aside, notice how no one ever names their kids Anne, Barbara, Jane or Diane anymore?)

Back then, we were trying to deal with the tumult of the country and struggling to understand the assassinations of John Kennedy (a mere 5 years prior), Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy (both in ’68). At the same time, we were trying to deal with the internal tumult of adolescence, colored, of course, by years of parochial education and a steady stream of nuns. And the last thing we were thinking about then is what we’d be like nearly 40 years later.

So quickly, so comfortably, we fell back into familiar rhythms of old friendship. But we weren’t frozen at age 17; we had all matured (nicely, if I do say so). We spent as as much time (if not more) discussing current events and American history as reminiscing. We seem to be more closely aligned politically than we were 40 years ago, united in opposition to Iraq, and wishing that the current US president would visit Independence Center to gain a sense of history.

Thankfully, we’ve all maintained a health sense of humor. I would love to have any of these women as next door neighbors or an office mate. I like how we’ve aged, how we’re accepting who we are. (I wish I could say the same for the US. While the US faces quite different challenges in 2007 than it did in 1968 (although, in large part, they’re still self-caused), the country has not matured to face those challenges. )

So I look forward to the next time the 4 of us can again gather and celebrate together yet again all the phases of our lives. But hopefully, next time, we’ll also be able to celebrate the direction of the US.

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