By: Tanya Ward Goodman
I touched down in Kentucky in the midst of a tornado. The man in the seat behind me was watching the Weather Channel on Direct TV and he couldn’t help but describe the dark clouds, the high wind and sheets of rain. I could have seen those things if I’d looked out my window, but I chose to keep my hands flat on my knees and stare straight ahead. I memorized the pattern of the blue and tan upholstery and focused on the joy my daughter finds in turbulence. I imagined how she would take the jolting and dropping and jerking of our airplane. She would hold her hands up in the air, the way you would on a roller coaster. She would laugh. She would gleefully shout, “That was awesome!”
The man behind me said, “I can’t believe they are taking us in.” He said, “I don’t know what they’re thinking.” He said, “Just look at that front – just a wall of blackness…”
We landed and everyone burst into applause. I turned to look at my seatmate and she nodded her head to the guy behind us and rolled her eyes. “Not much help there,” she said.
On the ground, I got a text from my friend, J.J, “Just came out of the basement…”
“Heading over,” I wrote back. “Brought rain boots, but no ruby slippers.”
When I arrived at her house, I heard, “Is my friend here? Is that my friend?”
Her son, a teenager, shrugged and swung open the screen door and then slunk off down the front steps, not wanting to witness the grown ups and all their hugging and jumping around. It had been his whole lifetime since we’d last seen each other, but it seemed like no time at all.
I spent Friday afternoon and Friday night and most of Saturday morning sitting in a wooden chair at a small table in J.J’s kitchen. She (just as she had in college and after college and in our early twenties) danced around. She’d land for a moment and then she was back up to grab a glass of wine or a jar of the most wonderful pickled beans. She’d be up to rumple her son’s hair, check the temperature of the oven or lean out the back door to take a look at the clearing sky. It was wonderful to be in her presence. It was so familiar and yet, this time, I had company – her husband and children – all of us swimming a little more slowly, but appreciating her speed, her lightness, her energy.
The screen door slammed again and again, opening and closing to admit a neighborhood kid or the sweet dog, Lola, who leaned her wide soft body against me and looked up with the most trusting eyes. The kids asked for money and taquitos and drinks. They ate jelly beans out of a mason jar. There were mussels for dinner and lots of bread to sop up the juice. There was good music and the promise of an all night bourbon-fed conversation and then we suddenly realized that we were no longer twenty and it wasn’t even eleven o’clock, but it was time for bed.
In the morning there were waffles and visiting friends. We ate lots of bacon and drank so much coffee my hands shook as much as my plane on landing. We realized we had chosen the same wedding china, we’d read a lot of the same books and our parenting style – kind and funny and fast and loose – was the same. We became friends when we were still kind of kids and although we didn’t travel all the way to adulthood together, we have shared many of the same paths.
It was with real regret that I got in the car and drove away from her house. I needed more time. With more time, we could organize a walk, where we could talk and move simultaneously, we could cook a meal together. We could pull up a stool at that little bar down the street. I wanted more time with her kind and funny husband. I wanted him to meet my own kind and funny husband. I wanted her kids to meet my kids. And one day I think it will happen. Her teenager, a little less aloof than when I’d arrived, offered his hand when I said good-bye and I took it and promised we would meet again.
I drove off down the narrow streets of J.J.’s hometown. She lives just a few blocks from the friends of her youth. Their kids play with her kids and their stories are one long, continuous strand. I was so grateful to be able to weave myself into her world for a moment; so happy to pick up the thread of our friendship and find it still so strong.