Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Reconnecting

When I was 17 years old, I played Peter Pan in the musical of the same name.

It was the pinnacle of my high school theatrical career.

I know I'm supposed to feel that those were my glory days. If Bruce Springsteen says it, it must be so -- right? But I don't. I have had so many more wonderful experiences and moments in my life since then. I wouldn't go back to high school for anything.

However, there were parts of those days -- that spring in particular -- that were wonderful and which I do re-live with great fondness at the memories.

I remember the way it felt to be young and energetic. I remember the stress of worrying about my grades. I remember the absolute, delicious agony of wanting a boy I could never have. I remember the marvelous time I had with my mother. We were the only two people at home that year, and we had an awful lot of time together.

But yes, that play was fun, and it was such an intense experience that I've often tried to write out the whole thing. I've never succeeded finishing.

After the play was over -- well, I think most actors feel a terrible letdown, a deep and oppressive depression at the end of a particularly good play's run. And I am no different. When the curtain fell that last night, I had roses, I had a party, and I had very good friends to be with. So I kept the depression at bay, but just barely. It bubbled and boiled beneath the surface. I was grumpy with some of the actors because they were watching a videotape of the play. I actually don't remember a lot about the party itself, but I'm pretty sure I laughed and danced with a few of the people.

Too soon, it was time to go home. My friends Greg and Suzanne drove me to my house. The driveway was a long one, up a very steep hill. For some reason, Greg didn't pull up all the way to the house, so when I got out of the car, he started backing his white '63 Corvair down the driveway. I was standing there in the middle of the turnaround, squinting at his headlights, waving goodbye to them and wondering if I was going to be able to stand tomorrow.

Suddenly, Greg's car stopped. He didn't turn off the engine, but his door opened and he got halfway out of the car and he said, "That's where you belong. There. In the spotlight."

For a moment, I was too stunned to move. It was the kindest, most beautiful compliment I had ever received. It is still the kindest compliment I've ever gotten, and to have it come from one of my best friends at just that moment in time was more than I could stand.

I was so scared of life, so scared of my unknown future. I was scared of leaving home and going to college. I was scared of change and certain that I was always going to fail at everything. To think that someone believed in me so much that he could stop in the middle of his tracks and spend a moment to not just reassure me but to *compliment* me so thoroughly -- it was too much.

A sob caught in my throat as I ran -- ran, stumbled, fell -- down the driveway to throw my arms around him. He got out of the car to meet me, and Suzanne also got out of the car, and we stood there in the driveway in that most uncouth and ungainly of human configurations, the sappy group hug. I cried. I don't think Suzanne or Greg did. But I did. I cried because of Greg's outrageous kindness. I cried selfishly for the childhood I knew I was leaving, for the home I would miss, because I was never going to be Peter Pan again, and for my impending adulthood. I put it off as long as possible, but I got older anyway.

I will never grow up. Just yesterday, I felt the hot shame of childhood fear in the facing down of authority when I told that lawyer what I thought about his silly case. I was just as scared of the judge and the bailiff and the censure of everyone there as I was of growing up and taking chances.

And although Greg moved to Florida and disappeared from my life for twenty years, he's back as surely as my grip on my childish behavior is. A couple of months ago, he sent me an email. And we have been as close as ever -- catching up on life and refreshing each other's memories about the funny things we thought and did when we were young. He's in a committed relationship, out of the closet, and making a good living as a wedding consultant. I'll see him a couple of weeks when he comes home for his class reunion.

I can't wait to see him. Of all the people from my past, of all the youthful friends I lost and kept and keep finding and remaking, Greg is the best connection to my youth that I can imagine. He's grown older and a little more responsible -- but he, like me, has a firm grasp on playfulness.

Yet he's as wise as ever. Just tonight he sent me this gem after we had discussed how strange it is to go to a reunion to see people we thought we would never see again:

"But to get to these ever so sweet berries - I had to crawl through an old wooden fence and I always got splinters. Then I would have to wade through some briars and I would always end up bleeding before getting to the berry patch. But those berries were so worth the splinters and the bleeding.

Kinda like life, huh? We gotta go through the bad to get to the best parts of it."


To my youth -- to youthfulness -- to Greg & his pearls of wisdom.

5 Comments:

At 30/6/05 4:02 AM, Blogger Hi, my name is Greg. said...

Awe, Bay...I don't know what to say. You did belong in the spotlight - even if was in the middle of your ever so dangerous driveway and even if the spotlight were the dim lights of a 1963 Corvair. And today, from the contact I have with you now(after 20 years) you my friend, are still in the spolight. The spotlight of life, motherhood ,and being a wondeful wife. We were meant to be apart for a while and for whatever the reason(s) may be now -I am ever so proud that you consider me a best friend.

 
At 30/6/05 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG . . . I'm sitting here crying on my cereal!! You put into words feelings I've had but never been able to communicate!! Bravo!!

And then Greg posts and compliments you AGAIN!!! Oh wow!! This is GOOD. Thank you both for sharing!

 
At 30/6/05 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dang it, Bay....it's too early in the morning to be crying on my bagel. You've got such a way with words, my friend. Greg sounds like one of those once-in-a-lifetime friends you make and hang onto for all their worth. Glad you two were able to reconnect.

 
At 1/7/05 11:14 AM, Blogger Ally said...

Oh Bay, lucky, lucky you! I went to my HS reunion a few years ago (hmm, apparently that means I'm OLDER than you ;) )

and it was awful. People were still behaving the same way they did 20 years ago. It was amazing, the cheerleaders now had bigger, faker boobs, the leaders still led and well, the rest of us just sat around and enjoyed the show. I connected with people I had no memory of and went along my merry way. To have had a friend like Greg would have been such a blessing. I know you will enjoy each other's company immensely!

Oh - and PS - LOVE your jury - er, I mean - "blank" story!

 
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