Time it was, and what a time it was, it was

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

-From “Old Friends/Bookends” by Simon and Garfunkel

We were both eighteen and entering our last spring months of high school in 1998, the last time Ashley Klein and I saw each other in person. For many years, I remembered having the best conversation with her in one of our classes one morning. It felt like we must have talked the entire period—should we have been working? does it matter?—and I remember it was the kind of conversation that eighteen-year-old girls have, full of hopes and plans and eagerness and the world. It was one of those fortunate and beautiful moments of connection, one that would help us to reconnect on Facebook many years later once the dust of graduation and our early twenties—whoosh!!—settled.

As fifteen minutes elapse, I have been sitting here staring at my screen thinking about what I want to say next. For some reason my words elude me a bit tonight and my thoughts are struggling their way into an epiphany of sorts. It’s just that when I think of the two of us sitting in that classroom talking, part of me wonders if the relationship between work and friendship was as balanced for me as it could have been in high school. I know it wasn’t. Just as I have long regretted missing out on the night when Marguerite and Steve went running through the high school sprinklers (uh, am I remembering this right guys?), I look back now at age thirty-two and see a whole world of people whose stories I could have lingered longer to hear.

The high school world is full of groups, and sailing from one into another is not so easy. It is getting easier: as a high school teacher I saw that boundaries between classic high school groups are now much more flexible and evolving. (Can that be because everyone is more connected outside of the school day through technology/Facebook)? I had my group, and we did almost all things together, and I loved and still love them. We also had larger groups we were part of…and groups that sometimes got together with other groups. Oh the teenage mind: how easily we want to lump people together. It keeps us feeling safe, I think, at age sixteen. To group ourselves is human nature, and we were young humans. High school can be a wilderness, and a time of uncertainty for anyone—regardless of how we might try to present ourselves. So we fall back on what we know.

Thank goodness that we have the potential to live for more than two decades. Thank goodness for our thirties, and for some perspective. It amazes me now that, for someone who loves to read and be inside of literature, I could have so easily missed the opportunity to collect and hear the stories of so many people in the TVHS class of ’98. What do I know now in my thirties that I missed in my late teens? I know for sure that we’re all on the same kind of journey. Yes, our journeys may have different details, but we all share a quest for happiness and a bond in grief. Maybe we just needed to live a little longer to see what we all have in common. Maybe the gift of sharing time and space with so many souls is wasted on the young, a time when we see mainly our own goals ahead of us. One of the parts of teaching I cherished the most was the chance to connect with so many beautiful lives—hundreds, maybe a thousand of them in my shorter career—and to observe them, and to learn from them.

There are so many people I think about from our Class of ’98. People I wish I could just sit down with now, now that we are in our thirties. It is glorious when we have the time to see, really see, one another for whom we really are.

I was lucky to experience just such a moment with Ashley today. How much I loved this time with her! She is vibrant and fearless, and hearing about her life gives me such an appreciation for her. She has a spark, a  true passion for being alive. I love that she has not been willing to settle. You know what else I love? She is so easy to be with. How could it have been that we did not hang out more in high school? Ashley is so much fun, so genuine, so present in every moment. A person like that in our lives is a gift. We talked for hours and could have talked for hours more. I feel so thankful that she spent so much time with us on her visit to Temecula this weekend. What a gift, truly, that was.

So, thank you, Ashley, for sharing your life and your day with us. We are all better because you were here. I hope it will not be another fourteen-ish years! Love to you as you start on your next adventure this coming week. I will be rooting for you and celebrating with you. Big hugs!

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