Have you ever picked up the phone and called someone you haven't chatted with in 42 years? I found out recently that it can be truly lovely. I wasn't the one who called of course; I don't initiate phone interactions because I never know when to shut the hell up and I don't want to impose such a vast amount of me on anyone else without their express consent, but I'm so very happy to have been on the receiving end of such a call.
Cathleen and I met in a dreadful fashion on the first day of first grade at Pleasant Hill Elementary school in Austin, Texas. Our teacher, Mrs. Ewing, had given explicit instructions that we were absolutely NOT allowed to interrupt her when she was talking. Well, I was nothing if not an ardent follower of instructions, so when I felt the first tiny inklings of needing to pee, I figured I could hold it a while -- I certainly wasn't going to raise my hand to interrupt her. But she just droned on and on ... seriously, this woman would not stop talking. Between sentences I would flash my hand up but then of course I had to pull it right back down when she took a breath and started yammering again so she never saw me.
Inevitably, my little 6-year-old bladder couldn't hold on any longer, and this scenario ended as you'd expect, in a puddle of shame. But then Cathleen, the pint-sized blonde warrior sitting beside me, came to my rescue. She jumped up, grabbed a huge stack of paper towels and tossed them at my feet while pointing an accusatory finger at the teacher and declared, "You should have listened to her. She's been trying to get your attention for a long time!" Thereby rendering the whole ugly situation the teacher's fault, not mine. Cathleen was my hero.
We stayed friends until I moved away to Colorado in the fourth grade. After that we wrote occasionally throughout the years, exchanged a few school photos, Christmas cards, that sort of thing. Somehow we continued this into the digital age and eventually caught up with each other on Facebook. She has led an exciting, artsy life full of creativity, a gifted daughter and what appears from my vantage point at least, to be a fair amount of glamour. She is a television and movie producer and in 2014, garnered Golden Globe awards and Oscar nominations. She got to meet Jon Stewart, you guys. Jon. Fucking. Stewart. And Meryl Streep. And in an interview, Barack Obama, the coolest-ever President of the United States, called her movie his favorite of the year.
That same year, let's see ... I produced a few thousand vapid Facebook posts (mostly lazy, one-click shares), failed spectacularly at a no-sugar diet, nursed my Great Dane through the amputation of his right front leg due to bone cancer, and watched Jon Stewart champion the accomplishments of Barack Obama. I know! It's like we were leading parallel lives, right? Umm, perpendicular lives, maybe. But it's been wonderful to live vicariously through her artistic experiences over the years. And I'd like to think that she has enjoyed some of my life experiences as well, especially the five Great Danes, one amazing hubby and a gifted daughter - we both got lucky with the daughter aspect of our lives.
Sometimes I wish I had followed more expressive pursuits earlier in life (why did I wait until I was 50 to even start a blog?!) but I believe our lives unfold exactly as they're supposed to, that we're always in the place we're meant to be, for better or for worse. And in that place we're faced with the same decision every day: we wake up and make a choice to either stay there or turn and walk a different path.
Maybe the first step on the different path is as simple as talking with a friend whose voice you haven't heard in 42 years.
Cathleen's awesomely photogenic dog, Henry