Confetti is flying out of my calendar and littering my kitchen counter from all of the recent birthdays! Besides my mother-in-law's, last week my friend Gina partied her way into 50 (well, every day is a celebration with Gina, anyway. She IS a party!) Another friend, Scott, turned 54, and yet another, Larry, turns 60 this weekend. (I remember when Larry told me he was 29...I made him show me his driver's license - I didn't believe he was that old! How can he be turning 60 already?)
If you're lucky, you will have friends like these three who enter your life with such an intensity that their image, their very essence, is pressed upon your heart, shaping you. Even if your paths only head in the same direction for a little while, you are never the same afterward.
If you're really lucky, your paths will join back up down the road, and you no longer have just the memory and impression of the friend - you have the real thing once again. That's how it is with Gina. She is woven into my earliest memories, elementary school through junior high - slumber parties, wrapping houses, boys. Even back then, Gina was lively...vivacious...mischievous... full of ideas...a natural leader...FUN! In high school, our separate interests led us mostly in different directions: she was a cheerleader, through and through, while I worked on the yearbook and, uh, kept my options open. For a few years after high school, I didn't see her or talk to her, but little by little we've come back around full circle, making new memories: slumber parties...wrapping houses...and even boys (the same ones, only just as friends and a little older now.)
When I went to work at the DuPont methanol and Syngas plant, I was just nineteen - the youngest technician by several years and one of only a handful of women. I had a few semesters of college under my belt, a couple of months' experience as a welder's helper, and had only been out of my parents' home, in my own apartment, for about two whole months.
How lucky for me...no, what a blessing for me...that I landed on the same shift as Larry, working with him in the Methanol area. Despite my youth and gender in a traditionally male world, he always treated me with respect and as an equal. I looked up to him for his gentleness, wisdom, patience (despite the red hair) and moral strength. And...he made me laugh! I have so many great memories of working with him, talking to him (poor Larry, I told him everything!) and sharing lots and lots of popcorn.
This was taken in 1980 in the Control lab, when I was twenty...me, Larry, and Ken, who lives in Panama now. (Look at that hair! Where did it go?? And by the way, that's some kind of syringe in my hand - my note on the picture says "0500 running %H2O in MeOH by Karl Fischer method" - whatever that was!)
By the time I quit to stay home with Kendall, Larry had become a supervisor and was working at the new Ethanol unit. I've only seen him a handful of times in the past eighteen years, but we keep in touch by e-mail and I love getting pictures of his granddaughter Sophie...with her red hair and big smile, she looks just like her grandpa Larry to me.
This is an old one of her, but the most recent I have of him!
And then there's Scott, who just turned 54. It doesn't matter that I only hear from him once in a blue moon by way of an e-mail ...I'll always consider him one of the best friends I've ever had. We not only worked together - 12 hour shifts - but he and his wife, Belinda, let me tag along with them on our rare days off. We'd go dancing, camping at Canyon Lake, and tubing the Guadalupe. We watched street races in Houston and played cards or watched movies at my apartment. But mostly, we just talked, confided, joked, and teased. Of course, there were rumors about us, but the fact is, we were just friends. Well, not just friends...best friends.
I'm not sure when we drifted apart, or why, but I won't lose hope that one day our paths will come together again. Until then, I'll look for the occasional e-mail, keep my fingers crossed for pictures of his grandkids, and be grateful for our friendship, the difference he made in my life, and the impression he left on my heart.
Scott, Belinda, and me tubing the Guadalupe River 1981...
Happy, happy birthday wishes to Gina, Larry, and Scott! And thank you!