Isn’t it funny how seeing (or smelling or tasting or hearing) certain things makes you always think about certain people, places or events in your life? I’m like that about the most mundane of objects – especially in the laundry room. Folding towels makes me think of my mom. Cleaning lint from the dryer makes me think of my friend Chris. A wooden clothes drying rack makes me think of my friend Marie.
I met Marie in the early 1980’s when her husband, Neal, and my boyfriend, Dean, shared an office at Carnegie Mellon University. She was a nursing student. She was also a birder before it was a popular or even accepted pastime. We did a lot of things with Neal and Marie in Pittsburgh until they moved back to Rhode Island. I was heartbroken. I’d not had a friendship like the one I had with Neal and Marie since — well, probably since forever.
We kept in touch and visited them a lot. We spent Easter with Marie’s boisterous Italian family and met Neil’s brother and his wife. I considered Marie one of my closest friends and asked her to be my matron-of-honor at my wedding. She and Neal flew to Illinois for the wedding and even accompanied us and our friend Paul to Wisconsin for our first honeymoon.
Over the years we’ve visited them probably once a year on average – perhaps a little less. They visited us a few times, but not as much as we did them. We rejoiced at the births of their children and they did the same for ours.
Marie and I had a few differences – I remember that we disagreed on whether or not a teacher who had no children could be as empathetic as those with children. As a child free teacher then, I thought I was as empathetic as one with kids. (Later– after my own daughter was born — I agreed with Marie and told her so.) We also had a bit of a falling out when I suggested she see a movie instead of a play of some play we’d just seen. I didn’t mean anything by it – knowing that their life was so busy with their children. It got her upset though.
The last time I saw Marie was at her Newport Beach beach house when we visited them for a few days. The room Dean and I shared had a collapsible wooden clothes-dryer and I remember Marie coming in the room one day, folding it up and putting it away. I remember thinking that one of those might be handy to have. The day we left I had a monstrous hangover from way too much wine at a party they had the night before.
We planned on visiting them again the next summer but about a month before we were to go Marie emailed us that she and Neal had separated and would probably divorce. She was shocked too, but doing ok. She said we could still visit, but it might be uncomfortable.
I was beyond shocked. I was devastated. It was like a dear friend had died. NealandMarie was dead. It was now Neal or Marie. Not that we needed to make a choice, but it felt like that. We couldn’t make a choice. So we’ve not seen either of them. We’ve both communicated with Marie through email and telephone conversations and I IMed Neal a couple of times. They both say they are friends and we should feel free to go visit — we could see both of them.
Perhaps it is the divorce, or perhaps it is just the busy life we have with two teenagers and aging parents, but New England is no longer somewhere we first think about visiting when we are thinking of vacation plans.
The last I heard from Marie, she said she was seeing someone and was doing well. I’m glad. She is still one of my all-time favorite people and always will be. I’ll always consider her one of my best friends, even if we never see each other again.
So, on days when I have a lot of clothes that cannot go in the dryer, I think about Marie and our friendship and sometimes I cry a little, but usually I smile remembering the good times we had.