December 20, 2016

Sat on a park bench like bookends

This week, a new friend commented that he didn’t think I’d be a big Springsteen fan. Forgive him, my friends. He did not know me through the years of sitting on Benjamin’s floor for hours, stiff in the dark, listening to the strains of “Thunder Road” as it repeated on the stereo.

Those of you who are new to my life don’t understand that every night, when I tuck my boy into bed, I hear those opening notes. That sometimes, when I am most pathetically emotional about my little people growing up to be big people, I turn on that song just to hear the screen door slam and Mary’s dress wave. Nothing else can bring back those sweet, intense, difficult years like Bruce can.

The people in my life now—in this new place where I am putting down roots and intend to stay—know me in many wonderful ways. But there are many, many of you who, by this point, think of me every time you hear “Thunder Road.” You know who you are, and I know who you are, too.

There are those of you who think of me every time you see a moose, too, which is apparently all of you because I’m the only person left alive who hasn’t seen a moose.

There are those of you I think of whenever anyone refers to The Carousel of Progress. You are sweet, sweet in my heart, even if you love the crappiest ride in Disney World.

There’s a chocolate store in Cambridge that makes me think of several different friends from several different times of my life. There are two friends from graduate school who come to mind every time I read or think of Faulkner, which is pretty often because I share his birthday.

Growing old(er) is more or less going through your day being reminded of all the people you have loved, is what I am saying. If you’re an old friend and you get a call from me, know that I may be a bit maudlin, but that’s just because I saw a Barbie doll and a coat hanger and thought of that art class we took together in high school. Those of you who don’t get that reference should just count yourselves lucky and move on.

If you’re an old friend and you’re going through a rough patch, call me, because we were roommates once and I know how you like to decorate the bathroom with towels that match every change in season.

If you’re an old friend and you just had a baby but we haven’t talked in two years, send me a message anyway, because we waited tables together when we were both young and poor, and I know how your eyes look at 1 AM after wiping down the bar.

If you’re an old friend and you miss me every time you hear the word “cheesecake,” I probably miss you when I hear that word, too. If you think of me every time you see a kid dressed all in red, I probably think of you every time I see a My Little Pony.

Truth be told, I have never met so many interesting and engaging people as I have in the last couple of years, and I think many of them will someday become old friends. But I have gone through life giving a little piece of my heart to special people as I’ve moved along and I hope some of you feel the same way about me.

To my old and new friends alike, I wish you happy new year. May we all find a way to resist and serve our principles in the dark years to come. It will not be easy, and we will need each other.

To my old friends, maybe we ain’t that young anymore. We’ve woven together in crazy, upside down ways, and that makes us all the stronger.

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