Forty years ago, I left New Jersey for Michigan. There I went to school, met Pat, married, and never returned home for more than an occasional weekend. Those were the days before Facebook and unlimited free texting. Back then, when you made a long distance call, you watched the sweep second hand of your Timex and kept it under a minute. Before this age of near constant connectivity and communication, it was so easy – too easy – to disappear.
But there was always one friend I wondered about, told my family stories of, and regretted I had never called. She kept her maiden name professionally. I did not. The burden and the blame lies with me. Last year, I reached out to her on Facebook. We exchanged a rash of emails, and then she visited me in Budapest. At first, neither of us could get used to the adult voice and looks of the other. But then, 40 years just melted away (except, sadly, for our adult voice and looks).
This post isn’t intended to be a maudlin stroll down memory lane. I share this story as background. My friend, (I’ll call her Amy – because that is her name), mentioned she always wanted to learn to surf. Perhaps this came from all our carefree days growing up on the Jersey shore. “Hey Amy, we gotta get after this. I refuse to watch you learn to surf when we are 80. Let’s make this happen.”
She has been researching trips; sending questions and suggestions to me. It appears that Wrightsville Beach is a good place for beginners. The first week in September is free for both of us. We are getting close to a plan. I have been honest, “This is your dream, I’m only going for support.” I envision her out on the board all day, working her butt off while I sit on the beach and read, occasionally look up, waive and yell “looking good”, before turning back to my book and a bag of chips.
Then last weekend I thought, “This is stupid.” Why wouldn’t I learn to surf? (Dear family and friends, please recognize a rhetorical question when you see one.) Sunday morning I woke up, grabbed my ipad and watched some surfing videos. The critical move seems to be the pounce from a flat on your stomach paddling position to a standing crouch. (A bit troubling given I can no longer crawl under my desk and plug in my computer – at least not effortlessly.)
I went out to the living room so I could lie on the rug. This is just outside our double bedroom doors and in full view of Pat who was watching me from bed. “Hey Julie, what are you doing?” “One second Pat, just testing something.” Let’s keep in mind, this was my first attempt, and I had to psych myself up for at least a minute. “There, done. Not bad. Just under five minutes. I could have done it faster, but I didn’t think to grab the coffee table until after about three minutes.”
When I got back in bed, Pat said “What was that all about?” I replied, “Just checking to see if I can learn to surf. Looks good. I’m in.” Pat answered (God, I love this guy), “Keep in mind, when the surf board is floating on the water, I think it will be easier. The floor is really hard.”
I am the schmuck who walked away from one of my best friends for nearly 40 years. The least I can do is pull on a bathing suit, grab a board and float out in the water with her. (Until I typed that sentence, I forgot this will require me to wear a bathing suit in public.)
Some people my age work out and diet in preparation for their class reunion. Next year, I will miss my 40th reunion. When friends notice the new, fit me (a highly futuristic and delusionally optimistic statement if there ever was one), I will say as any 57 year old woman might, “Yeah dude, just getting ready for my surfing lessons.”
After all, we each get just one life. Surf’s up.