Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Thing About Old Friends

I'm just going to say it.  

I am a very popular person.  I have lots of friends.

There it's out there.  

Well maybe you guessed it when I told you I have been a bridesmaid to eight people.  I don't want to put on airs, it's just a simple fact:  I have lots of friends.  I have always had lots of friends.  Probably because I am an only child.

I have new friends, old friends, smart friends, red-headed friends, Greek friends, Prairie friends, school friends, work friends, foreign friends, local friends, friends with dogs, friends with cats.  The list goes on.  So I know about friends.  And there is one pocket of friends that I think is especially special:  the old ones.

I mean the really old ones.  Not as in, they are eighty like my Aquafit friends, but the friends who have been around for a couple of decades.  I have two in the 20-year range (who I have both been a bridesmaid to) but I have only one friend that has been with me for a quarter of a century (yes, I realize this is close to the friends of 20 years friends, but I the difference between 4 and 9 is great, and she has been my friend since I was 4).

When I was a little girl on the farm, I had a pretty idyllic childhood (not that the city one was not, but the country does have its charm).  Idyllic in that my school had skating days on the local pond, that we could go berry picking in the field next to us, and that my BFF lived on a massive farm with her seven siblings.  To an only child on a smaller farm, her life seemed foreign and magical.

The days I would spend with her on her farm were AWESOME.  We would play all day (and the day seemed to have a billion hours) in the playhouse, on the trampoline, in the house next door that belonged to her great-grandmother but was now empty, in the hay bales, and by the creek in the cow pasture.  The days were filled with snap peas from her garden, chasing cows with the quad, and lying in the grass and watching the sky drift above us.  Through the night we would giggle about boys at school and sneak cookies.

Then I moved away. But we still wrote every week and when I went home to my grandma's we would always have one magical day on the farm.  By the time we hit our early-twenties, she got married and started a family while I moved to the Rainy City to become an actress.  Our lives could not be more different.  But thanks to the wonders of facebook, we now can keep closer tabs on each other and communication is a bit easier.

This is not the point of my now long story.  The point is, that just last week, I drove down to her home and had a very lovely visit.  She now is a mother to five, count them - FIVE, children.  All of whom are minnie-hers, absolutely adorable, and totally well behaved.  We sat in her backyard, under the tall oak trees, drinking iced lattes, talking about our childhood and what happened to all our friends, with her kids playing around us.  She turned to me and said "I love this!  We haven't seen each other in years and I don't feel awkward at all.  It's just normal."  And that's what it was.  Just normal.  

The reason we have friends is so that they can help us become better people.  They teach us lessons and show us ways of living that inspire us and help us live our own lives.  It's a nice circle.  As we sat there, smiling and laughing I felt refreshed and energized by the lesson (and lessons) she was teaching me. 

 #1 - Old friends, no matter how often you see them or talk to them, know you from the beginning and will help remind you of where you come from (so you can go back when you get lost)

#2 - Money isn't everything.  Sometimes in Rainy City I get caught up with the car, the house, the clothes.  But something must be said for maybe not having a ton of money, but enough to eat well and stay at home with a family that loves you.  I don't think I have ever seen anyone as happy as my friend who just loves her life with her whole heart (and looks about 20 - maybe that's why?)

#3 - Do what you love.  My friend has done some cool things - like work in a hospital with nuns in Africa helping deliver babies to women who had been genitally mutilated.  But at a young age, she really knew that what she wanted more than anything was to be a mum.  So she did.  And she is happy happy happy.

I drove home with a sense of peace and a smile on my face.

That's the thing about old friends:  they are always there when you need it most (even if you didn't know it).

Splish Splash Fitness

Due to the fact that my knee was knocked out in the early part of the summer (at a wedding of all places) I have not worked out for two and a half months.    I need to get back in the swing of things but ever so slowly, therefore I thought perhaps the pool was the best place to go.

I convinced a bride friend of mine that Aquafit at her local gym was the way to go.  In Cowtown, her gym is the biggest and best - full of young and old.  I was hoping to debunk the myth that aquafitness is only for old people.  I was wrong.

We were late in getting there so as we rushed in and Mrs. L scanned the pool area (the adult pool area) looking for our class, I happened to spot them first.  We only had enough time for me to turn to her and say 'I am really really sorry'.  Our class was in the training pool, as in training to be a duckling, duck, dolphin pool.  And we were the youngest 'ducklings' by about 30 years.  

The thing I love about older people is that they love us 'young-uns' and they all smiled as we jumped into the pool.  And by jumped I mean splashed as it was three feet deep.  They told us to go up front to the 'deep end' - maybe 3'10''?  So here we were in our bikinis (I was on vacation so only had my ruffly deal that kept coming up around my nipples all class.  Besides, we're in our twenties and childless - we don't have one pieces yet!), surrounded by a graceful woman with white hair in her seventies, an old punjab lady wearing a shower cap, a lady in a bright red bathing suit who wore her glasses the whole time, and two women who were, ummm, how do I say, rather buoyant.

Aquafit is suprisingly tough, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  You are using the water as resistance which makes lunging and jumping back and forth quite difficult.  So difficult that Mrs. L got a blister on her big toe from trying to keep hold of the pool bottom.  Pretty sure she is the only woman in the universe of Aquafit to get an injury.  

Unless you count water up your nose and a near drowning to be an injury.  I took a pretty good head dive when I tried to jump over my noodle like a skip rope.  I know that I am an uncoordinated gal but come on!  I fell head first into the pool making all the other women snicker as I bobbed up like a drowned rat.  Clearly I was too tall for the pool and my top heaviness made me topple over.  That is what I will tell myself anyways.  The Punjab lady kept having to show me what to do, including how to jump without risking one's life.  Aquafit is where the seventy-year-olds have us beat - they know the drill.

I also enjoyed the seventy-year old men sitting in the hot tub across the pool taking in our performance.  Watching the hot old birds get fit.  It's like the bar for old people.

By the time we got out, I was pooped.  I looked like I was pooped too.  With mascara running down my face and my hair plastered to my head (they make women coming out of the pool hot on TV.  It's a myth).  All the old ladies asked if we would come again.  Come again to be humiliated in the pool and get more blisters? Sign me up!

And bless their hearts, they thought we were going back to school after class.  That's the best thing about Aquafit:  even though you may have just turned 29, you will always be the youngest person in the class . . . 

Monday, September 1, 2008

An apple a day . . . .

Wow, has this summer flown by or what?  It's hard to believe and yet they told us this would happen:  each year that we get older, the faster the time will fly by.

Kids are going back to school tomorrow.  Not that I envy them having to take annoying classes like math and science or writing essays, but I always feel a bit nostalgic at this time of the year.  I see the kids running to school with their new backpacks and their first day of school clothes and I get the pang.  

I loved the first day of school (yes, geek central here).  I love love loved getting new school supplies that smelled of fresh rubber and wood.  Flipping through new notebooks that were empty and waiting to be filled with a new year of knowledge.  The new backpack that was still clean and had no banana residue at the bottom.  And the new lunch box.  Remember in the eighties when we had those plastic dealies with pictures of our favorite TV-show characters on the front?  With the Muppet babies or Barbie?  On the inside our sandwiches would neatly stack and the thermos was held by a strap in the top part of the lid?  Those were the days.  I loved picking out a new lunch box every year.  Odd for me though, I was the kid who went home for lunch.

My mother used to get so angry at me for insisting on a new eraser when I still had half of one from the previous year.  Pish.  New year, new eraser.  

If I was ten, tonight I would have filled my backpack (after laying out all my new supplies on the dining room table the previous week for inspection), picked my 'back to school' outfit and would be lying in bed for the anticipation of a new year, new teacher and getting to see all my friends everyday.

But I am not ten, I am twenty-eight (with only a week left!) and tomorrow I have to work, pay some bills and walk my dogs.  No lemon scent of school floors (that only last that first week) or choosing seats next to my best friend.  No text books being given out.  No new kids to scope out.  No new grade to show that I am getting older and therefore better (when did we start freaking out about getting older?).  

I'm also envious of the university-aged kids.  When I go back to my old campus now I feel like an impostor.  I walk the familiar grounds of a school that was my home for four years, but it now belongs to new students.  Like being an alien or the foreign student.  Oh University, how I miss watching the leaves slowly turning, scarves blowing in the wind, and feet rushing from building to building between the ten minute gap. 

For heaven sakes, I still go by the school calender and I have been out of school for over five years!  Then again I was in school for nearly twenty years.  No wonder there is such an adjustment when we graduate.

The Engineer goes back tomorrow too.   I am not in the Big Apple, otherwise I would pack him a lunch (in those new fangled un-fun lunch boxes they sell now) and walk him to school - and then promptly go shopping in Soho.  Is that what mothers do when their kids go to school?  Run to the mall and get pedicures?  Wait a minute, I think I like the sound of this new wave of school-dom.  Your kids get to go and learn all the crap they will eventually forget, leaving you for a blissful, quiet six to eight hours of nothingness.  I like it!

Ahh, who am I kidding?  Sign me up for an apple and get me a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.  School is the best!  

Happy learning kids!