Monday, November 5, 2012

Twenty Again!

"So when do you take off?"


"3:55.  Ok, it's 2:15 now.  So I'm 3:35 then?"

"I think so.  You were a half-hour before me taking off, right?  A half-hour ahead of me leaving for Seattle and a half-hour before going back to LA."

Deep breath.  "Ok."

I could tell my best friend from college Heidi was unsure about her flight time as soon as we gave our dear, So-Far-Away friend Julie her final hugs good-bye and pulled our bags into the terminal yesterday.

Heidi has always been the most together of the three us.  A wife, a mom of two very active girls ages 5 and 11, a high-school teacher.  Heidi is very busy to be sure but seems to juggle it all with the most grace.  She is the most present of the three of us, a very savor every moment type of person.  This is why I found her sitting totally engrossed in a book, sipping a peppermint latte in the virtually empty baggage claim area Friday afternoon.

"Heidi."  I called as I walked toward her. 

No response.

"Heidi."  I raised my voice a few octaves as I got closer.


"HEIDI!"  I finally yelled.

She slowly turned to me.

"Oh, hi!"  She smiled.  Happy to see me but there was somehow surprise in her tone and her manner.  She was that in the moment, that able to enjoy just a few minutes, alone, even at freakin' Alaska Airlines baggage claim.
She stood up and we hugged.  Even though we are just a couple-hours drive from one another in southern California, I hadn't seen her since early August. 

I giggled to myself as I canvassed her set-up for the 25 minute window between our flights' arrivals.  It was signature Heidi.  She had taken up a four-man bench with a couple magazines, her book, her purse and her phone.  And I know what she was thinking when she finally nestled herself into the ripped, black vinyl bench after collecting her checked bag.

Yes!  At long last!  No students to attempt to get to listen to me, no kids to shuttle from A to B and do homework with, no dog to sweep up after, no house to pick-up, no dish-washer to empty, no dinner to make.  Just me and my latte and my book.

In hindsight, I think I may have actually ruined her moment.

I had missed Heidi.  And I was worried about her lately.  Her brother-in-law had just passed away under strange circumstances, adding a layer of stress and responsibility to her husband and therefore Heidi in recent weeks. 

How different we are, I thought to myself as Heidi gathered her things.  Had the shoe been on the other foot, had I arrived 25 minutes ahead of Heidi, I would have been chain-dialing my best friend from highschool Julie who we were visiting for the weekend, making sure I was either in her car or on the curb, purse on my shoulder, roller bag at my side, waiting eagerly for Heidi.  Then on to the next thing, the next move, the next stop, the next step, the next "do".  

My phone rang.  I looked at the display.  It was Julie.

"Where are you guys?"

"Alaska baggage claim."

We stepped outside and quickly found Julie and her husband Greg and her dog Speedy curbside.  I turned to Heidi and smiled.

"She said the whole family was picking us up."

It was a warm welcome indeed!

We were loaded up and on our way to Julie's to briefly drop off bags (and husband and dog) and "make a game plan" in no time flat. 

Julie is the most creative of the three of us and certainly the most fashionable, which is a title perhaps most worthy of bragging about, in all of our books. 

Julie had goody bags prepared for each of us including little journals where we were to make lists of what we wanted to do or rather buy while in Seattle. 

Is Seattle a global shopping mecca: no! 

Is Seattle an actual city compared to the suburbs where Heidi and I had laid our family's roots down: hell yes!

Comparatively speaking, there were options galore there and we knew Julie had her finger on the pulse of all of them. 

Holiday party outfits, accessories, boots…"sweaters and pictures for my new bathroom"…in Heidi's case… however we intended to indulge ourselves as working moms with two days to burn was quickly documented in our journals.

"Ok, ladies.  Are you thinking consignment shopping, department store, discount?  What are you thinking?"

"All of the above."  Heidi quickly replied.

"Ok, ok, how about challenges, ladies?  Shall we make a note of any fashion challenges we are facing?"

This is but one of the many reasons why I love my Julie so.  Our friendship has a born-on date of 1989.  English class in our junior year of high-school.  We were both new to the school, she in her crop-top fresh from the local, Catholic high school and me in my Bermuda shorts fresh from a family move from Minnesota.   She made me sign a friendship contract after a week.  And when we get together, the clock immediately turns back.

I turned to a fresh page in my journal.

I hadn't seen Julie since August either.  And I missed her!  And I worried about her.  She and her husband had been in the throws of baby making the scientific way for several months and I know how that can wear on a marriage, especially the mommy hopeful, who is undergoing hormone therapy and being poked and prodded and questioned at regular doctor visits.

"Okay, what do we want to do first?" Julie asked.  "Are you hungry, do you want to shop first, do you want to grab a glass of wine?"

"Wine."  Heidi and I said, in stereo.

And so it began. 

First stop: a wine shop with yummy appetizers in Ballard.  Brief stops at a boutique, then a consignment shop on the way back to our car. 

Then a long dinner, the very best kind of dinner in Queen Anne, the kind with wine, then appetizers, then more wine, then a few tears.  Then a main course, a bowl of pasta I didn't share a single bite of, then more wine, then Greg joined us and our brief but rowdy celebration grabbed the attention of several patrons. 

"Did someone get engaged?  What are we celebrating here?"  A woman asked on her way out.

"Old friends and new beginnings!" Julie told her.

Then yet another appetizer sounded good, especially with more wine and more laughter and a bar-side photo-shoot.  And we were the last patrons standing at 11:30.

And it continued the next day.  The shopping, the sharing, the confidences, the fears…a little nausea…a lot more laughter, a tiny bit more wine.  Our weekend bender days are sadly long over.  We compromised that night and had two deserts instead.

We woke early Sunday and showered and packed up, determined to make as much as we could of our final day together.  First a coffee, then back over to Ballard to the Farmer's Market and local shops.  Even with that extra hour from daylight savings, it just wasn't enough.  We knew it wouldn't be.  Maybe that's why Heidi refused to look at her itinerary.  Maybe that's why I also refused to look at mine.

Now inside the terminal, Heidi hurried up to one of the automated stands and tried to check in.

"Shit!  It's not letting me check in.  Something's wrong.  I think I had my departure wrong.  I'm going to go find someone."  She was off.

I checked in and read my boarding pass.  SHIT!  Of course.  We were both wrong.  I left at 3:35.  SHE left at 3.  

Fortunately, Heidi was finally able to print her boarding pass and quickly check her bag.  We stood in the TSA line together.

"I'm such a moron."

"I'm such a moron!  I don't know why we travel together.  We shouldn't be allowed to."

"They said my bag and that means ALL MY MAKE-UP won't make it."

"Oh, shit."

"Yeah, nice Monday."

She made it through her screening first.

"Bye, Lizzie!"  She yelled from the other side.

"Good luck!  Run O.J.!"

She turned and smiled at me before she ran for her gate.

I was able to write my thank you notes on the plane.  To Julie for hosting us and being amazing in general.  To Heidi for actually planning the trip and being amazing in general.  And to my Jeff for encouraging me to go and making a life with me that I love to miss AND come home to.

When will I see them again?  I thought to myself as my plane touched down in Burbank. 

It doesn't matter.  I told myself.  They're always with me.  

This wasn't my favorite picture from the batch. It was Julie's. But I'll give it to her.

And a favorite, melancholy song to miss old friends to