Partway into my 9th-grade year (waaaaay back in 1968 or so), a new girl moved to town. Her name was Ann. Someone--a counselor or a teacher, I suppose--asked me to show her around the school. That was the beginning of a deep and loving friendship that lasted all the way through our high school years.
I have sweet and happy memories of spending the night at her house, doing homework together, eating lunch on the lawn at school, listening to the chirping of the finches she kept in a large cage, soaking up her mother's kind counsel to me, enjoying the joking and teasing with her father and brother.
Ann always seemed a little exotic to me. Because her father had worked for USAID, she had spent much of her childhood in Malawi, Africa. She missed our senior year of high school because she elected to travel to Taiwan on her own and study there for the year. After high school, our ways parted, but we kept in touch. She eventually went to work for the State Department and has been posted in various places, mostly in Asia.
Over the years as I was raising children, it was always a treat when the occasional box from Ann arrived. It was generally an assortment of clothing and miscellaneous items from the country she was living in. Her Christmas cards were richly decorated with Chinese dragons.
It was at least partly due to Ann's influence that I hosted 5 different full-year foreign-exchange students when my children were at home. The quilt she sent to Mark and me when we married hangs on our living room wall still. My youngest daughter, Katie--Kathleen Ann-was named for my high school friend and me. I think it is partly due to my friendship with Ann that I have enjoyed being blog friends with Bridget (here's the link about our face-to-face meeting last summer).
But our contact has decreased over the years, and I have missed Ann. The last Christmas card I received from her, several years ago, had no return address. From time to time I have toyed with opening up a facebook account, just so I could try to find her that way. Then, last year, my parents forwarded the Christmas letter they received from Ann's mother, Maria. Following clues from Maria's letter's return address, I did a little google searching and found a phone number for Ann's mother in California. I called her a year ago, and we had a lovely conversation. Maria wanted to know about my family, my life, and I wanted to know about hers. I hoped I could get in contact with Ann again, through Maria, but she said she couldn't give me Ann's address. I didn't know if it was due to security issues with the State Department, or some other reason.
Of course, Ann isn't the only high school friend I keep in contact with. My friend Jill, who was maid of honor when I married Mark, lives in California and checks in here at the blog regularly. Ginger lives in New York and sends occasional emails about her family and her work for the Department of Defense. For several years her son lived in Lake Oswego, and she always called when she was in town visiting her son. We got together a few times. And Mark Kelley sends Christmas cards, occasional emails, and even came to visit a couple of years ago. All of these dear friends shaped who I am today and I am grateful for our ongoing contact. We all have full and busy lives, lives that rarely intersect, but we know where one another is, and we still matter to each other.
A few weeks ago, when I cleaned off my office desk, I found Maria's (Ann's mother's) telephone number again. I tucked it away (I thought) while I finished cleaning, but then when I went to find the number and call her, I had lost the number! I was so sad. I looked through all the papers I had sorted, but it wasn't there, and I was left to assume that I had accidentally let it slip into the many reams of paper I recycled on that busy cleaning day.
On Saturday, I looked inside my old address book--I don't even remember why, now--and I found the slip of paper with Maria's phone number. You can bet that I didn't lose it again. Maria and I had a lovely phone conversation, and by Sunday morning, I had two email in my inbox: one from Maria, and one from Ann.
It was that easy. She is in Tokyo now, where the clock is 17 hours ahead of Oregon's. By Sunday evening the timing was right--it was Monday morning in Japan, and it just happened to be a holiday that day--and since she had the day off, she was able to call me on one of the embassy lines that connects to the US. We talked for nearly an hour.
In the email just before our phone call, when we were agreeing on a time to call, I told her that I could still hear her voice, what it sounded like.
Ten minutes later, when the phone rang, that's exactly what I heard. My friend, who I have missed so much over the years. I would have known her anywhere. She sounded exactly like herself, and it was just what I needed to hear.