We've been friends for almost exactly forty years, since the beginning of kindergarten. I explained that to my kids as we drove to Kindergarten Friend's house for dinner on Saturday, but they have heard the story before so they weren't really listening. Such friendships are pretty common here in Snowstorm region; it's only my blog friends who are impressed. And actually, Kindergarten Friend's husband went to school with us, too, so I guess I've known him almost as long, but he doesn't count because he's a boy so I was too shy to talk to him until at least tenth grade or so.
Kindergarten Friend had invited my parents and her mother, a retired fourth grade teacher. I've know her mother since I was in kindergarten; she taught my siblings and then years later, my two oldest children. Boy in Black used to say she was his favorite teacher because she told stories about the "old days." She retired from teaching a few years back, so she never had a chance to teach Shaggy Hair or With-a-Why, but she still knows everything that goes on in the school community. And she's got a great story about what happens when you invite a bunch of nuns to your basement and get them drunk.
Kindergarten Friend has this gorgeous house, with a comfy living room that makes you want to curl up near the window with a book. She is the kind of person who actually plans things like wallpaper and paint and curtains, and coordinates things to match or contrast, and puts up shelves with decorative items on them, and walking into her house is like stepping into some kind of magazine. Except of course, she doesn't act at all like someone who lives in such a beautiful home; she didn't even flinch as my kids and her kids and one of her extra kids went tearing around the place, repeatedly knocking over a plant that is not likely to survive the year.
I couldn't help but notice the Snowstorm City china that my friend pulled from her cupboard. Her family must have a million sets of Snowstorm City china; I know the dishes well because I was really shy as a kid so when I ate at Kindergarten Friend's house, I spent most of my time staring down at the plates and eating all the food Kindergarten Friend's mother used to make for me. What's funny is now as an adult, I'll be at a conference in a strange city, and I'll notice that the restaurant is using Snowstorm City china, and suddenly, I'll have a flashback to that dinner table in Kindergarten Friend's house on a Friday evening, that familiar cosy kitchen where I used to sit listening to the family chatter while I ate a big plateful of food.
My father had brought over a CD of music that he, my daughter, and my oldest son recorded this summer -- at trio of clarinet, piano, and guitar. After dinner, we listened to the CD while we sat around the kitchen table and talked, and the little kids ran around as if they were at a playground instead of this perfectly decorated house.
My father, who is 75 years old, has lived in this area for 75 years. Kindergarten Friend's mother has lived here all her life as well; in fact she lives within walking distance of the house she grew up in. They were talking about people they knew in common, and the places that were popular when they were young, and my father started talking about how, as a musician trying to pay his way through college, he played most of the dances in the area in the early 1950s.
"You went to Railroad Village High School? What year did you graduate?" he asked. When Kindergarten Friend's mother answered, he said, "I played at your prom."
"The fellow I was dating didn't like to dance much," Kindergarten Friend's mother recalled. We all smiled. They were talking about an event that took place 56 years ago.
The passage of time is a peculiar thing. It is a jolt to me to watch Kindergarten Friend's daughter, Blonde Ponytail, running around the house. She looks exactly like Kindergarten Friend -- or what Kindergarten Friend looked like when we were in elementary school.
How strange to watch the kids playing, and realize that we, sitting at the table with cups of tea and grown-up talk, are the adults.