Nineteen years later, my oldest friend is still just as beautiful. Her obsession with Axl Rose’s hot pants has waned, perhaps, but her eyelashes are still impossibly long and her laughter is still the stuff of rainbow sprinkles and summer concerts.
We met up with Marie and her equally beautiful family at their summer home in Viken, Sweden, en route to my sister’s wedding in Greece. (What? Scandinavia = legitimate dogleg en route to ancient ruins.) We landed in Copenhagen,
collected our densely-packed arsenal of peanut butter, diapers, and Bermuda shorts, and hopped into our rental car for the one-hour drive to the coast. After a sleepless nine-hour flight, Simon deliriously devoured a stale SAS breakfast roll and passed out in the back seat.
We left him there (car doors open, salty sea air bathing his skin in negative ions) for the first few hours of our reunion with the Liden family as they graciously greeted us with caffeine and cake and polite refusals that we smelled like wet carpet. Seriously, folks: hie thee to Sweden, because they’ve got hospitality down.
I feel both a hollow ache and the tender quiver of gratitude when I reflect on my childhood with Marie. She introduced me to Metallica, Sara Lee pound cake, and a braver, funnier side of myself–but she also represents an irretrievably idyllic chapter in my life. I look at her and can’t help but think about my mother, our incongruously peaceful childhood in a Gulf nation, and desert camping. As expected, deaths, births, illness, moves, and bad haircuts have cleaved our respective lives into Before and After, and I mourn the unknown in-between.
I also feel impossibly lucky to have reconnected with my friend in the first place, genuinely confident in our adulthood pledge to stay in touch, and smugly self-righteous in our foolhardy decision to spend all the monies to fly our toddler to the other side of the Atlantic. The details are fading, but I will never forget the way Marie’s friendship made me feel–and I’m pretty sure the spirit of adventure is already forged in Simon’s heart.