The Old, the New, and Going In StylePosted: December 5, 2010
When you go to Tupelo to have lunch with a gathering of old girlfriends from high school whom you’ve not seen for forty-three years, how do you go? When you have your GPS programmed and Mapquest directions sitting beside you, but there’s a Christmas parade that has shut down the main street you must use to get there, what do you do? Well, after you cuss and turn the wrong way, you figure out you need to be on the same side of Main that the restaurant is on, so you get there and you stop at a Honda dealership. You park your Subaru out front and you go in with a map in your hand, and they know you are not there to buy a car. They try to give you directions and then see the blankness in your eyes, and so a handsome salesman says, “Follow me. Just inch around to the back and I’ll be in a red car — just follow me and I’ll take you on backroads and get you there.” And so, of course, you follow him. And you grin big because you know you are in Mississippi because people in other places just don’t do nice things like this. So you stay close to him and he takes you there — your own private red-car escort parallel to Santa’s red sleigh in the parade — and you thank him profusely.
And then you recognize Gene, the husband of an old friend, whom you’ve never seen before, on the sidewalk in front of La Meson D’or. You know him because you’ve seen his picture on Facebook and you have no qualms about stopping and rolling down your window and shouting, “Hey Gene.” And he helps you find a parking place.
And so you are one of the first ones there, and you go in, and one by one, you greet old friends, and everybody looks the same, and they are all so sweet, just like you remember them. And they all know about you because of Facebook — they know your husband died, that you have a Harley guy, that you work at writing, and they have seen videos of your grandson Hardy walking on Hardy land. And you know all about them.
A few still live in Cleveland, where you all graduated from Cleveland High School; some drove down from Memphis; some drove up from Jackson; and Jenne flew in from Nebraska. They were kind enough to plan this gathering in Tupelo because it’s 3.75 hours from your house, which is fairly close, comparatively speaking.
And so you talk and eat and everybody gets dessert. You decide that you — the girls in the class — don’t look old, but the boys do, and you think it’s because you moisturize and they don’t. Or you dye, and they don’t. And then you play a game…that possibly everybody is getting too old to play because you have to think fast, but it is great fun. Everyone has brought a wrapped Christmas ornament, and you all sit in a circle holding a gift, and Karen reads “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Every time she says “the” you pass the gift two to the right, and every time she says “a” you pass the gift once to the left. There are lots of screw-ups, but you all end up with an ornament to hang on your tree and remember…
These are the girls you grew up with. The girls you took French with, the smart girls you were in senior math class with, the girls you were with when the president was shot, the girls you slid down the levee on cardboard sheets with, the girls you went to the pool with and took sunbaths with, the girls you went on church trips with and skipped Training Union with, the girls you rode around town with, the girls you walked across a pipe over Jones Bayou with, the girls you listened to the Beatles with, the girls you gave surprise parties for, the girls you met in the bathroom during sixth period and got in trouble with Coach Stevens, the girls you walked across the Walter Sillers stage with. The girls you knew when times were innocent.
You’ve all walked the paths of life since — experienced the loss of parents and childhood homes, divorce, death, illnesses, surgeries. You’ve maybe raised children, have grandchildren. You have careers, and some of you are retired.
You are women. And you are not the same as you were when you were girls at Cleveland High. Yet you are the same, and you always will be to each other. And you hope that you can gather like this again and again and have much more laughter and togetherness because you appreciate it now more than ever.