“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?” asked Piglet.
“Even longer,” Pooh answered.
– A.A. Milne, English author and poet, Winnie-the-Pooh
When I first met David, I was impressed that he was still close to a friend from preschool and another one who used to live across the street from him and started kindergarten with him. His preschool friend served as one of the groomsmen in our wedding and is godfather to our son, and his kindergartener friend was our best man, who infamously toasted us at our reception with a quote from The Godfather – “May your first child be a masculine child.” Both named John, they are wonderful people and more importantly friends you can count on no matter what. After first meeting them and discovering how long they had known one another, I held such respect for David. To me, having made and kept life-long friends showed me that he valued genuinely good people and he worked at relationships that were important to him.
This is not to say that how long people have known their friends is a measure of their character. But nowadays when everything is so fleeting and many people only see others who intersect in their lives because we’re all too busy – I’ve been guilty of that – it’s touching to recognize when you do have good friends who have seen you through the highs and lows of important times in our lives. It takes a lot of work to maintain those friendships, especially when distance is involved, so to invest in that time and emotional energy is a tribute to them and a testament to friendship.
Last week I had a short-notice visit from my best friend from high school, Kimi Yniques, who now resides in Boise, Idaho. My good friend Kathy Brackett Verschoor moved away early in our junior year, and Kimi and I were left to being a geeky twosome, inseparable as we sold ads for the school newspaper that year and worked our way to writing and editor positions our senior year. Kimi wrote about sports, having been on the diving and gymnastics teams, while I was an alto in the concert choir and served as the managing editor. Kimi was in the Bay Area for a very brief visit, and we spent hours looking at old pictures and filling in the blanks in our lives for one another. It’s a minor miracle that we became best friends in the first place, as Kimi was and still is a boisterous, outgoing person and I was a painfully shy, quiet, way too serious, bookish person. Somehow we found in one another a kindred spirit. We shared lyrics that meant something to us: For Kimi it was Billy Joel’s “The Stranger” from the 1977 album of the same name, while for me it was Supertramp’s “Take the Long Way Home” from their album Breakfast in America – “Does it feel that your life’s become a catastrophe? Oh, it has to be for you to grow boy.” Such high school angst! But we had each other to work through our angst.
The last time we saw each other was when I was in town for our 30th reunion nearly three years ago. Whereas few friends of mine attended the 25th reunion, which I attended, everyone showed up for the 30th, except for me. While I visit my hometown every Labor Day weekend, David and I celebrate the anniversary of my cousin Janet and her husband, Tim, with a big home-cooked dinner. I missed the raucous reunion party, but a handful of us, including Kimi, got together for breakfast the next morning. And before that? Kimi came out when David and I had a big party at our house after returning from our honeymoon. She was a first-time mom, bringing her infant son Benji, nearly 15 years ago.
That’s a long time in-between the years and we certainly have flitted in and out of our lives. Once we transferred to four-year universities – Kimi to Fresno State to major in agriculture so she could figure out how to solve the hunger issue and me to UC Davis to write – we pretty much went our separate ways. But a sure sign of good friends is the ability to ignore time and distance, so that when they do get together, the conversation picks up again, effortlessly and comfortably.
What makes for an enduring friendship is knowing that trust and honesty will always be valued and shared. Kimi was there for me during those emotionally volatile teenage years; we spent countless long nights just talking. We never tired of talking and sharing. She always believed in me. She is one of four friends who read every draft of my novel, including the 1,000-page “ottoman,” and gave straightforward assessments. In fact, she reminded me of the reason I’m in need of one last revision, and now I’m re-energized for that final round.
Kimi is back in Boise. Who knows when we’ll see each other again, but we know we’re a phone call or a keystroke away. I’m lucky for our friendship through the years, but it’s not luck that we are friends. Being open in heart and mind enabled us to find and recognize a kinship. That recognition helps us to honor our friendship, in the face of time and distance.