Time it was
And what a time it was
Simon & Garfunkel, “Old Friends”
I will always remember the day, midway through first grade, when a new kid moved to Claremont and entered Miss Dyer’s classroom at the Way School. Her name was Linda, and she sat across the aisle from me. I was hooked from the first look.
Together, we went through that year and the next eleven, attending the same schools, sitting in the same classrooms, learning the same subjects. She was a straight “A” student, and hardly a week went by that I didn’t call her up or drop over to her house looking for help with my homework. She was not only my friend but, in a sense, my tutor as well.
I have only one unhappy memory connected to Linda. We were both members of the Claremont Skating Club on Maple Avenue, and when it came time for the annual Carnival, I asked her to be my skating partner. So did Charlie Dole, and she picked him. He was older, and a better skater, but it still stings.
In fifth and sixth grades we were in the same square dance group. For some unknown reason, Mrs. Rollins, the school principal, thought that everyone should become proficient in square dancing.
And we both played in the band, she the French horn and I the clarinet. I can picture us wearing our Stevens High Band uniforms, marching down Pleasant Street and, in January of 1957, Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.
We never became boyfriend and girlfriend, just close friends. She was smart, funny, wholesome, and idealistic. I used to wonder whether she even had bad thoughts.
By the time we graduated, she was spelling her name “Lynda,” with a “y.” Other than that, she was the same person who sat across from me in first grade. She went off to college in Massachusetts and then law school in California, where she met a Canadian graduate student named Ric. They married, she took on a new last name, and they moved to Vancouver, where she has lived ever since.
The years went by and, for reasons I cannot explain, we did not stay in touch. Out of sight, but never out of mind. Then, about twenty years ago, the Pianist and I decided to visit her relatives in Vancouver. I called Lynda, and she invited us to dinner at her house.
When we arrived and went into the living room, there were childhood pictures of us on display. It had been over forty years, but of course we hadn’t changed a bit. Later that evening, two of her children came to the house, and one of them said, “I’ve been hearing about you all my life.”
The same is true of my children, who have been hearing about Lynda as long as they can remember. She was the girl who sat across from me in first grade, the one who didn’t pick me as her skating partner, the one who helped me get through senior math.
Last month, two of my children, their spouses, and two of my grandchildren met Lynda on our way back from a trip to Alaska. The word “memorable” is inadequate to describe the afternoon we spent with her and Ric.
There’s something about friendship that can’t be put into words, but you know it when you feel it. A shared history often keeps a friendship alive, but there’s more to it than that. In the case of Lynda and me, there is a kind of kinship, a sense that we will always be important to each other, even if we are not in the same place. Our recent visit was not just about Paul Simon’s “what a time it was” but also about “what a time it still is.”