A Simon & Garfunkel song, Old Friends, Bookends has one of the most haunting melodies I have ever heard. It is the haunting, lilting tone of remembrance, the ways things used to be.
Memory brushes the same years
Last weekend one of my oldest friends, Lou, came to visit me. Lou was the Home Economics and Japanese teacher at the first school I ever taught at. We instantly became friends. Have you ever met someone you just clicked with, someone with whom there is a moment of recognition with which you identify so strongly you actually say to yourself – ‘Where have you been all this time?’
Straight away Lou just got me. It was such a relief to not have to explain myself every five minutes, to not have to worry about my tendency to talk in circles and jump from point to point without completely explaining the previous one.
I haven’t seen Lou for six years. She has been living in Japan but has recently returned to Australia with her husband and three children. We met up on Friday night and I will admit to feeling a little nervous beforehand. There is always that concern when you haven’t seen someone for a long time that they will have changed or that they will think you have and will be disappointed.
As I waited for Lou to turn up at the restaurant I found myself lost in a room I hadn’t visited for almost twenty years. My old house in Bondi that had the sunroom at the back that looked over a park. Lou and I used to make carrot cake so delicious it melted in your mouth and sit in the sunroom and eat it while drinking tea we bought from Madame Eva’s shop down on the beach. Madame Eva used to tell everyone who came into her shop that she had gypsy blood and for an extra dollar she could put something special in the tea leaves like a love potion, or a tonic or a curse. I was never brave enough to take her up on her offer but Lou got a love potion tea once that tasted very strongly of cinnamon. She met a man shortly after she began drinking it. But he ended up breaking her heart.
This is Lou and I in 1991. It seems so long ago now. We were both only 26. How quickly time passes.
The final part of Old Friends goes –
A time it was
It was a time
A time of innocence
A time of confidences
Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you
When I look at this photo I often think of that song and of what a time it was back then. Our bitter thoughts, our disappointments, our sins were few. We were like boats traveling along the coastline, just drinking everything in.
You can live a lifetime in six years, a lifetime that can crush your optimism into dust right before your eyes; but I needn’t have worried with Lou. It was the same as it had always had been. The chatting, the laughing, the finishing each other’s sentences – and above all, the sense of gladness at being in each other’s company.
Sat on their park bench like bookends……
Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy…
I can imagine it now. Lou and I with our support hose and walking sticks, sitting in the park watching the birds scratch for grubs. Years from today. It will be strange but enormously comforting. Old friends. They are irreplaceable. We should make a habit of telling them how much they mean to us.