Sounds a little corny, right? Not this time.
The reunion weekend has come and gone. It was wonderful beyond words. We can hardly believe it happened, but we have pictures to prove it. Just as we had pictures from long, long ago of a wonderful year together. So many memories. I want to share the story, but will intentionally keep some details vague. You're all pretty smart. I'm sure you'll understand why and be able to fill what I am not comfortable presenting in words.
Like most everyone, my high school years were filled with the usual highs and lows. We moved to town at the end of my freshman year, so I had that painful experience of being the new girl. By junior year, however, I was happy to find myself among a large group of good friends. For the whole of our senior year, the family of one of those friends hosted an exchange student for the year, a girl from, to us, a very exotic locale.
It didn't take long for her to be wholly absorbed into our world, living the life of a typical American teen in the early 70's. She was sweet and funny and we delighted in sharing all facets of our year with her...the daily routine of classes, high school activities, football games, Friendly Ice Cream runs, parties and just 'hanging out'. We all loved her. That year was almost idyllic to me, and her friendship was a big part of that.
At the end of the year, shortly before she left for home, we had a celebration weekend for her ~ a surprise birthday party one night and a big, going-away cookout the next day. Everyone came ~ close friends, classmates, other exchange students staying in the area. It was the last time we were all together. A bittersweet mix of goodbyes and the excited anticipation of graduation and new chapters.
Throughout college, we kept in touch. Letters flew back and forth, filled with updates and youthful plans for eventual visits. We graduated, got married and shortly thereafter, history intruded. Understandably, we ceased correspondence with her, not wanting any unwanted attention to be brought by mail with a U.S. postmark. Time went by. High school friends (and some friends' families) moved from the area. Except for an occasional Christmas card from one in the group with news of the some other, we mostly lost contact.
But frequent headlines from that part of the world often brought back memories. About 10 years ago, I woke up suddenly from deep sleep, in a cold sweat. I had dreamed we met again. She was always somewhere in the back of my mind. What is her life like? Is she ok?
About a year and a half ago, sitting at the computer on Facebook, my mind drifted to her and on a whim, I typed her name into a search. To my amazement, up came a match! I hurriedly sent a friend request. And waited. And waited. And finally, three months later, up she popped.
If you can imagine an emotional reunion online, that is what we had. After all those years, here we were, sitting on opposite sides of the world, scrolling through posted photos of each other's lives. We commented. We messaged back and forth. We were incredulous. But cautious, always cautious. And intentionally vague in our exchanges.
Just before I had reached out to her, she had reunited on FB with her host-sister, my friend, A. Which led to our reconnection. As happy as that was, can you imagine our dismay when we discovered that she and her husband (another high school classmate and friend) live just a few miles from where M (also in our class) & I lived several years ago. What?!!!
Two weeks ago, I got an email from another of the group, S, with the news that our friend would soon be in Canada for several weeks, visiting her daughter. Would M & I like to join the small group for a weekend?
This photo was taken shortly after we all reunited on Friday night. Except for me (70's girl photographer), everyone in this shot is in the party photo above. Words cannot express what this weekend meant to us all, not only to see our friend again, but to see everyone again. Honestly, it was as if no time had passed. We caught up on lives lived and family stories, met S's husband and our friend's daughter and son-in-law. We reminisced, we toured the city. I laughed more than I have in years.
This is the last photo we have of the two of us together, at a Patriots' Day gathering of local exchange students and guests in April of 1971.
And here we are, together again, almost 42 years to the day later. Did this really happen?
You asked what the fabric envelope was for. During our senior year, I was editor of our high school yearbook. Way before digital was even a thought, all photographs were shipped off to the yearbook company for publishing, including family photos our friend loaned us to include in a feature layout about her year with our class. Many months into college, our high school notified me that all had been returned, so I picked out several of interest and saved her family shots, planning to return them eventually. When mail became a gamble, I saved them in a folder.
I knew they would be a perfect gift. Needless to say, she was overwhelmed when she opened the envelope this weekend. The next day, she thanked me again, incredulous that I had saved them all these years. I told her that even though I never thought we'd see each other again, there was a little part of me, somewhere, that always believed that we would.
She smiled and told me there's a famous Iranian poem that goes something like this ~
Tell me a hundred years, tell me another hundred years but don't tell me never.
And then she squeezed my hand.