Meeting up with my high school beau for coffee. I haven’t seen him in about 16 years.
He walks in, and I’ve got this huge grin on my face. It’s mirrored right back at me in his own smile. We hug hello, it’s warm and enveloping – his height and where we fall into the right places – a sensory memory from a long time ago.
It’s amazing how you can see someone after so many years – this is a man I dated thirty years ago (okay, how is that even possible?) – and he looks the same! There is a beard and glasses. And some (but not a whole lot) of grey shot through that same fabulously thick head of hair. But otherwise…
He has remained the most himself of anyone I know. I don’t know how else to describe that. He’s matured and lived his life, but managed to retain his mindset, and spirit from years ago. Everyone of us has changed as life has thrown things at us, and I’m sure he’s had his share of that as well… but he’s remained so true to that core of himself. He was always very unique, marched to the beat of his own quirky drummer to be sure – somehow it’s still the same, quirky drummer.
If we are both pushing the age we are pushing, why did it seem odd to me that we sat for over an hour talking about real life, grown up things? Buying houses and seriously… did we just mention accountants and taxes? His life across the country, mine out in the country (and my incessant ponderings about how I managed to live out there); his job, his girlfriend ; my Hubs and The Things; and when was the last time we saw one another?
After coffee and tea, we wander around and through our hometown square, pausing to feed our parking meters with quarters, prolonging our visit. Enjoying the square (much cleaned up from the days of my childhood and teens) we chatted about high school, where friends are now, the reunion I just went to, and our families.
And then we ran – jaywalk/ran – across a busy intersection. ‘Cuz I guess we are, somewhere not too deeply buried inside, still 16. Toward the really old church he attended, growing up. I always forget that my hometown is, in places, often as historic as the places I lived in New England. This huge stone church on the town square is one of those places. He wanted to show me a place he must have rediscovered during this trip back. Behind the church is an historic cemetery. Reading the plaques that tell the story of this place, I laugh. I am not surprised that such a place exists in our town, but rather that we hadn’t explored it together thirty years ago.
We enjoy the perfect autumn sunshine, that beautiful angled golden light, streaming down onto 300 year old gravestones. We strolled around, brown, dried leaves crunching underfoot, pausing to examine gravestones worn down or erased by weather and time. The ones that remain legible are still from a different era – F’s for S’s (there is a silly moment we spend talking like that), worn carvings of angels or god’s hand; funky old names that have come and gone, in and out of style; some of the stones are upright, or crooked, or knocked over – most seem scattered haphazardly throughout.
Meandering around here, I think back on past excursions to places he had discovered or remembered, places I would not have thought to go but am so happy we did. This grave yard is oddly the perfect place to recall this and to enjoy the sunny yet not too cool fall day. We’ve each wandered through a few of these historic graveyards in New England. He reminds me that he lived in the city there that I did. I remember it because I moved there soon before he moved across the country.
Our afternoon together is a moment of carefree sunshine and wandering and just being. It is a rare glimpse back to a wonderful and happy part of a painful time. Saying goodbye is sweet and more than a little sad- the goodbye hugs are a little awkward, where the hello hugs were not. I guess after so many years, after an afternoon of perfectly foamy hot caffeinated beverages and 300 year old gravestones, goodbye becomes harder. We promise to get together when he visits his family again and I think (I hope) he means it as much as I do.