“Hi Cindy this is Deana, your childhood friend.” It took me a few moments to fully process the words staring up from the Messenger app on my phone. When it sank in that this really was Deana, a childhood friend I had met at age four, I wanted to jump with excitement. I had been trying to find her for a long time, and now it appeared that she had found me.
Deana and I met when she and her older sister Jody moved with their parents into the house across the street from mine, in Southern California. Weather being its usual ideal conditions, I was barefoot, wearing a sundress and climbing a tree when the two of them ventured over to say hello.
We were instant friends; playing together almost every day for the next ten years. We’d set up Barbies on the front porch or play yard games like freeze-thru or red-light-green-light with all the other neighborhood kids. One of our favorite past-times was to role-play being girlfriends of the Beatles. There was always a debate over which one of us would get Paul.
I moved away the summer after I graduated from junior high. Deana stayed behind and went to the local high school; I started a new chapter in my life in Northern California – new friends, new school, new everything. Former school chums in those days really had to make the effort to keep track of each other. There was no texting, social media or internet searches to help with that task (how did we survive such barbarity?) In spite of the obstacles, Deana and I stayed in touch into our early married years and the births of our first children. She became a nurse; I was mostly a stay-at-home mom. Eventually, life took us apart.
I thought of her from time to time through the years and wondered where her path had taken her. How was her career going? Was she still married to the same man? Was she still living in Southern California? As the years passed, my desire to find her grew. After the advent of Facebook I tried finding her there, but to no avail. The years lingered on with a question in the back of my mind that would bubble up every now and then: how can I find Deana? Then the day came that I received her message; it led to email contact which eventually led to a long phone call. Our reunion and catching up on each other’s lives has been joyful for both of us. An added bonus has been to get back in touch with Jody, whom I also share many memories with. Because of the COVID-19 situation it will be some time before we can all get together in-person, but we know that that day will come.
Reconnecting with childhood friends has not happened often in my life, but on the occasions it has, it is like filling a hole inside of me that I didn’t realize was there. Why is that? Perhaps a tender memory of another “years later” reunion which occurred a few years prior to my experience with Deana, can help explain it. She was someone I had known in high school. We chatted at our 40th high school reunion and, upon finding we were now living not too far from each other, exchanged phone numbers. On the night we finally made time for a phone conversation, we talked for an hour and a half. We spoke of old friends and old happenings that I had long forgotten. As we talked, I lay on my bed like a school girl, and then, something magical happened inside of me: the familiarity of her voice and the warmth of our conversation somehow transported me back in time to my younger years. And while I was there, I uncovered a part of myself that had been buried. A part I’d forgotten even existed - the “old me,” the “me” that I was before the fetters of all these years of life and adulthood had taken up so much real estate in my head.
It is no doubt that we’ve all had true and special friends come into our lives throughout the years. But it’s the old friends, the ones who knew us way-back-when, that have the power to make us feel young again.
Life’s moments that take our breath away usually come unexpectedly. Being allowed to step back in time and “feel” again who we used to be, is a gift. We don’t need a time machine for this! If you’d like to try, seek out an old friend; someone who you loved being with, whose memory makes you smile. Someone who made you laugh; with whom you did crazy, frivolous things that you are far too sensible for now. Find that person and walk with them back into the past. Perhaps you, like me, can experience the “you” you used to be.
Cindy works as an employment development counselor, and is a mother and grandmother. She has lived in Sonoma County for 28 years.