There are those people who come into your life at a particular time and stay in your heart forever. Martha is one of those people.
Martha was my college roommate. We met my sophomore year and became fast friends.
Now, realize that I had few female friends in my youth. When I was growing up, there were four girls in my neighborhood who were about the same age. We spent a lot of time together until we got in high school. Then I discovered the opposite sex and lost touch with those girls even though they were right around the corner.
Somewhere in there, around fourth grade, a girl moved to town. Her father had retired from the military and had taken a job at the local naval facility. Karen and I were inseparable. We went to the same church, and we would alternate eating Sunday dinner at each other’s home. And on the various Sundays both families would take us to High’s Ice Cream Store for dessert. This went on through seventh grade. Then her family moved to Kansas – a hefty distance from Virginia. I never saw her again. (I have reconnected thanks to Facebook.)
In high school I had a couple of girlfriends, but once I started dating, I didn’t take a lot of time with girlfriends.
Then came college. I eventually gave up dating a fellow whom I had dated for seven years, so when I met Martha, I was again ready for friendships over boyfriends.
Some people would think our friendship surprising in those days. Martha was from a prominent family in Bluefield, West Virginia. Her dad was an attorney, and her mother was a Latin teacher. My parents were definitely what, in those days, you’d call “blue collar.” Martha was a history major; I was a math/religion major. Martha was a relatively accomplished tennis player; I definitely was not.
But we got along famously. We could talk for hours – and we often did.
Then I went to grad school, and Martha went to law school.
Martha was my maid-of-honor at my wedding. She agreed to be godmother to Elizabeth, when my girls were born.
She went on to become a banker in Bluefield. I became a teacher then journalist in South Carolina.
Through the years we kept in touch sporadically. She came for Liz’s confirmation. We went to visit her once when the kids were young. She sent Christmas and birthday presents to Liz. She came for Liz’s wedding. That was 10 years ago.
When I was on top of things (definitely not every year) I’d send a Christmas card, but that was pretty much the extent of our continued connection.
So this year I spent a week in November with my Greenville girls, and while they were in school each day, I wrote Christmas cards. I was determined that this past year I was going to actually send Christmas cards before Christmas. (Many years, I have insisted that as long as I mailed the cards before Epiphany, Jan. 6, that I was technically still on time, since the days between Dec. 25 and Jan. 6 were all still part of the 12 days of Christmas.)
And this year I thought to include two things – my email address and an invitation to come for a visit whenever she could.
And lo and behold, about a month ago, Martha replied, saying she was thinking February would be a good time to come here to visit. She was hopeful she’d be coming into more moderate temperatures than those in the mountains of West Virginia. (Was she in for a surprise! Think about the weather here last weekend.)
It was a crazy week last week – Tom was in Virginia visiting his dad, I had cataract surgery on Thursday (It went great!), Martha came on Friday, my friend Susan had her son and family here for the weekend to celebrate her birthday and granddaughter Sabrina’s birthday, daughter Liz and her family came for the weekend to see Martha and to take the girls to a little party for Sabrina at the park. We ended the weekend with our usual family Sunday dinner and a small birthday party for Joy.
I really didn’t think about it until we were in the middle of things, but the weekend probably seemed a bit chaotic for Martha. She mostly lives alone. She certainly socializes, but unless she’s visiting her brother or her sister, she’s not used to a house full of people – especially little people. So we gathered 12 at the park. Then 10 of us went to a Japanese steak house for dinner Saturday. Eight (Liz, Vince, Pearce, Clarke, Cade, Payton, Martha and me) of us spent the night at my house and went out for brunch Sunday. Then we had typical Sunday dinner at my house with Mac and Joy, Ariah, Thomas, Maddie, plus Cat and Scott, Cade, Payton, Martha and me.
But despite a little culture shock with all those kids running around all weekend, I think Martha took it in stride.
And I’m here to tell you that what they say is true: There are those friends whom you don’t see for years, but when you get together it’s like you have been next door neighbors all along. It really has been 10 years since we’ve had more than passing communication, but this past weekend was like there had been no time at all. Yes, the topics of conversation have changed somewhat – more focus on health, career experiences, parents and more. (As is my situation, Martha has lost both her parents, and we both had tales to tell on that journey.)
But there was no feeling that I had to reacquaint myself with my friend. We fell right into step. We talked for hours after everyone else went to bed.
And I was reminded that life is indeed short. As my favorite Scottish blessing says: “Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us; so be quick to love, and make haste to be kind ...” I have vowed not to let 10 more years pass before we get together again. We had so much fun catching up.
So I’m already planning a trip to Bluefield.