While at our tiny house in New Hampshire this weekend, Hubby noticed that an old friend of mine was playing a gig nearby at the Wildcat Tavern, along with Dave Mallett. (Dave is a somewhat famous singer/songwriter, best known for the “Garden Song”, which was recorded by John Denver oh so many years ago. He is well known in New England, and continues to perform along with my friend, Mike, who plays the bass).
Upon entering the tavern, I could not help but glance across the room and see Mike. Standing as tall as his bass at at least six feet, he looked just the same as when we had met more than fifty years ago when we were teenagers. We hugged and started to reminisce. Our families became friends when camping at the same campground in Maine in the late 1960s. Mike and I went on biking adventures, me with my measly five speed bike and him with a well-worn ten speed. We became pen pals, way before the age of computers, and corresponded with envelopes and stamps. When in college, I drove up to Maine to see him in my bright orange MG Midget, top down, enjoying the long drive on the back roads with nary a red light in sight. At another point, I drove up to visit him in his “house”, which in reality was a large, rustic shed, sans electricity or water. That evening I experienced my first, and only, “hippy” get together, friendly neighbors living in somewhat of a commune, sharing a meal of a variety of dishes prepared by the participants.
Real life, for me, provided an alternate reality…college and marriage with the cook from Newport Creamery where I had waitressed. We purchased a house, had children, established careers, and life carried on. And so it was when I met Mike again at the Wildcat Tavern.
He looked the same as he did so many years ago. The same tall, lanky frame, which matched my tall, lanky frame when I was younger before the added poundage turned “lanky” into “overweight”, which he was kind enough not to mention, telling me I looked the same also. Somehow his lankiness had become regal in his older age. He wore the same John Lennon style eyeglasses, and his long hair was tied back in a ponytail, the only difference being his hair was now gray. We easily bantered back and forth about our families, with Mike jokingly asking if I had adopted a dozen children by now. I promised to send him a copy of my book documenting the lives of our five children and a few of the important foster children we had planned to adopt but lost out on as distant relatives came forward to claim them, my legacy as a mom. He talked about his work with adult education, for which he continues to be passionate, especially in this technological day and age. He has a lovely wife and a great home now, no longer roughing it without electricity and plumbing.
The conversation took a deeper turn as we discussed some of the challenges we have had in our lives. His son was in a serious accident several years ago and remains in a rehabilitation facility in the west. Mike’s eyes glowed as he talked about how his son sometimes seemed to remember everything, and could carry on a conversation with ease, but his eyes darkened as he talked about the other times when he was non-verbal and unresponsive. Becoming contemplative, he indicated the whole COVID situation these past couple of years has taught him to be more accepting and appreciative of life.
It was with that sentiment that we parted ways, content with where we are in life, appreciative of the memories on which this life has been built and looking forward to the possibilities the future still holds in store. I am appreciative of the role this older, old friend has played in my life.
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