Tuesday, June 23, 2015

When the past rushes up to meet you

I was talking with a friend on Saturday, and she was struggling with her daughter's plans for the day. Courtney, the daughter, is 12, and she was attending her first boy/girl party. A day of swimming and an evening of bonfire, co-ed. My friend was nervous about her little girl growing up, and how her relationships would take shape.

Naturally, it got me to thinking about my own early teenage years, and the people who were part of my life back then. I met my best friend, Patrick, when we were 13; we've drifted apart from time to time, but we always return. I've referred to him as my True North throughout my adult life, and there is no more fitting a title.

We had quite a tribe back then, made up of me and Patrick and an assortment of music and theater folk - Ivan, Darren, Kelly, Kim, Cathy ... I'll stop naming names, because I'm gonna forget someone and I'm not here to offend.

I'm here to reflect.

See, these are the people who shaped me, as much if not more than my family. It was in their company that I would be out until the sun came up, playing ghosts in the graveyard in the actual graveyard. Or hide and seek across several backyards. Or freeze tag on the Naperville riverwalk. Or walking through the hooty-tootie West Side neighborhoods, shining flashlights in windows to see how the "other half" lived.

This was my first tribe, and our memories are rich feasts for the senses. They taught me how I deserved to be treated, loved me exactly as I was (and am), called me out on my shit, and opened my mind to truth and possibility. Remembering all that, I told my friend that as long as her 12-year-old understands herself, and knows her mother's expectations, let her go to this party and don't worry. Because the friends she's making at this point in life may well be the ones who guide her through the best parts of life, and who support her through the worst. It is entirely possible that these are friends for life.

Which brings me to last weekend. Kelly and her husband (who is also sort of my brother-in-law but I guess technically not really) and daughter were up for a wedding, and I was beyond fortunate to get to spend some time with them.

In the space of 36 hours, we squeezed about five days of activity, laughter and love. There is just no better way to be reassured of your importance on the planet than to spend time in the presence of someone who has loved you throughout your entire adult life, as Kelly has. And so that's what I had - a day and a half of love overflowing, laughter that made my abs ache, music that made my soul happy and conversation that made me wax nostalgic.

Old friends. They make the best mirrors; they've been looking at you for a long time, and they love you anyway.
Ivan Torres, me, Kelly (McDaniel) Rathunde, Kim (Hatman) Thuente, Darren Hutchinson, Cathy (Roberts) Lavigne and Patrick Farbo. Because of course we made an appointment with an area photo studio to have a professional portrait taken.

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