THREE FRIENDS TURN 75  -- with a little help from Winnie the Pooh

In 1960, Ellen, Susie and I were freshmen at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, living on the same floor in Moore Hall.     

                            “I was walking along looking for somebody, 

                              and then suddenly, I wasn’t anymore."

Ellen lived across the hall from me. She was soigne, sophisticated, and had beautifully plucked eyebrows. She also wore lacy lingerie made in Paris. That caught my attention because I was still sporting Carter’s floral cotton lollipops and didn’t even OWN a tweezer.

Susie lived down the hall. She was from Minnesota and hadn’t spent much time on the East Coast. One day she asked if I had ever heard of a group known as the “Bi-Ni Birth.”  “You mean the B’nai Brith?” I gasped.

                                  “The things that make me different are the 

                                    things that make me.”

Skidmore had stringent rules back then. That first semester we had to wear white oilskin bibs, printed in ink with our names and addresses, like a gigantic name tag. We were allowed only seven overnights to visit a boyfriend at Dartmouth or Williams IF our parents gave written permission. We had to wear skirts to dinner and our dorm doors shut at 10 p.m..

We three majored in Government and wrote lengthy theses before graduation. Over our four years, we heard lectures by Paul Tillich, W.H. Auden and Indira Ghandi. None of us were on The Pill. I smoked Parliaments (25 cents a pack!) and never saw or smelled marijuana on campus. We were so innocent.

                                       "We didn’t realize we were making memories — we

                                         just knew we were having fun.” 

After graduation, we wore pastel-hued chiffon bridesmaid dresses at our various weddings in New York and Minnesota. We vowed to stay in touch.

But life happened. We had burgeoning careers, graduate school, happy marriages, babies and homes in different states. Then, teenager woes, unhappy marriages, divorces, remarriages, cancer, heart disease, faltering parents. Through it all, our tom-toms never stopped beating. Phone lines never went dead.

                          “Anyone can show up when you’re happy. But the ones who stay

                         by your side when your heart falls apart, they are your true friends.”

This past week we three “old” friends met for our LXXV lunch — even though I’ll be the first of the trio to hit that number. Sitting around a window table at On the Marsh in Kennebunk, we caught up on our kids’ doings, swapped make-up secrets, shared health concerns, wondered where the years had gone, and communicated the way lifelong friends do.

As special as it is, our decades-long friendship is not unique. Everyone reading this blog has friends from elementary or high school, college or graduate school. They might still keep in touch with a “first home” neighbor or someone they carpooled with to nursery school, soccer matches, band practice. 

“Lifelong” doesn’t have a lock on feelings, either. Some of my dearest friends today, I met in the past few years. 

Winnie puts that all in perspective: 

                                “A friend is one of the nicest things you can have,

                                  and one of the best things you can be.”