I’ve been blessed to have the same best friend since my freshman year at Syracuse University. We were both put through the insistence of our parents, in the all-girls dorm. Considered safe from the all-night, coed high jinx found in the other dorms, Haven Hall was the last bastion of single-sex-edness on campus.
We were both Long Island girls, however, she was from Nassau county and I was from Suffolk. She called me “Polly Purebred” for my hairbands and Fair-Isle sweaters and she wore a red mirrored set of Rolling Stones lips on her requisite denim jacket. She would tell anyone off, and I would play the diplomat, both skill sets coming in handy.
We were united in having parents that wanted us to excel–she was an engineering student and I, a journalism one. We kept each other in line, we were fiercely loyal to one another, and we always had each other’s backs.
I would attend Mass on Saturday night’s prior to going out, and the service was across campus bordering on one of the bad areas of Syracuse. Although she is Jewish, my friend came to Mass with me every week so that I wouldn’t be alone. She withstood the questions and asked a few herself, and after we would head home, get dressed, and enjoy the night.
Our yin/yang relationship has withstood the test of time–through the normal travails and joys of life–illness, death, disappointment, weddings, children, milestones. It is a gift of profound value
And one I never take for granted.
When you are in a sport, you have little time for other social affiliations. So, my team was my sorority, my tribe, and many times, my family.
We had squabbles, we had secrets, we had laughs, most of all we had the camaraderie born out of the love of one sport. It didn’t matter how good or bad you were, as long as you did the work, you were in.
Hours-long bus rides were a mixed bag of impromptu singing, sleeping, talking or game-playing. There were the sleepers, who would crawl into the luggage racks and sleep the entire ride. There were the talkers, who would talk the whole ride (me being one of them.) We were as different as you can get, and yet we would, and did, fight for each other.
We have forever reconnected through alumni weekends and fundraising and although we don’t see each other often, with the help of Zoom and a text thread that goes on for miles, we manage to maintain our connection.
As adults, we look back and see the amount of time that we spent together and know that with few exceptions, we will never have that concentrated group again. Three hours of practice, one hour on the bus to the boathouse, one hour for dinner–five hours of time every day from September through May. It was a lot, but it was some of the best times of our lives.
New Orleans-The Nexus
I have made another reconnection. A small ignition, a repair of a friendship that lived and thrived over 35 years ago. Another athlete, of no mean accomplishment, who has spent the greater part of his adult life in service, and who has created a life for himself that has recently included talking to me.
When you are rekindling relationships, you have the formidable twin forces of memory and reality–competing with one another.
In our case, it was a spontaneous meeting, prior to COVID, in a city where we both had meetings for business. A chance post on Facebook prompted a responding text and we were set to meet.
The funny thing about meeting someone, after all, that time is that their face is a perfect reflection of what they looked like in your mind’s eye for all those years. It is as if they were frozen in time. Their current face is just a vessel for the past, and in it you find the connection that you are looking for, the sameness that you once knew.
And so it was that day. To say it was special would be an accurate description, but it is the why that would remain a mystery. We had allotted three hours, with us each having business obligations following. It was a Jazz Brunch and we sat close to the quartet and had to lean in to be heard. For days after, my face hurt from laughing so hard and for so long. Our conversations spanned decades, questions and answers, pauses for painful recollections, shared smiles for the happy ones.
There was the magic of meeting someone you knew when your whole life was ahead of you, and then knowing that the pain and disappointments and the joys that occurred in the interim years are really the gifts you are sharing with each other.
In the conversations that have followed, we have filled in the gaps of some of the years, carefully building a picture that is truthful and precious. My face still hurts from laughing and we have built a bond of an indefinable nature. Having just seen each other one time, we rely on recent pictures to fill in the blanks. But we have made plans.
And so I write about this great gift of connection and reconnection–the gift of someone looking at you with the same potential as in young adulthood. The joy of speaking to someone whose history, for a brief few years, intersected and included your own. It’s the wholeness that comes from not having to start a friendship from scratch, describing who you are and what you are made of.
I wish for these friendships for all of us–to tap into a place where anything was possible. That is the gift of reconnection–acceptance, reacquaintance, and the continued presence in your future.
Claudia Lucey is a widowed mother of four, mostly adult children. Her “happy place” is the beach, where she spends every waking moment in the Summer. But spending time with her children is her greatest joy. Her philosophy is that laughter, even through tears, is the greatest emotional outlet. Nothing makes her happier than a good laugh, even at her own expense. She is a Director of Marketing for a construction company, yet she is a trained journalist who loves to write and photograph buildings of any size or shape.