Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It does pay to look down.*

One of my seasonal rituals is the changing of the refrigerator door.
Wistfully, I recently removed the sunny yellow flip-flop that holds foot-shaped pieces of paper -- perfect for shopping lists. It's tucked back in my desk drawer until next summer.
Down, too, came a photo I saved from the June 1st edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The picture, taken by David Warren, is priceless. It shows two 3-year-old girls holding hands and beaming as they dance under the cooling spray of a garden hose, wielded by one of their moms. They look so happy, so sweet, so absolutely the best of friends.
The photo makes me smile every time I see it, and I put it on the refrigerator so I could see it more often. 
Delicate beauty along the trail.
Another photo made the refrigerator gallery for that same reason. I took it in June 2010 with two friends, one I've known since first grade, the other since seventh. It's one of those group portraits you take by leaning in together and holding the camera way out in front of you. We may not look as young as those 3-year-olds, but we do look so happy -- and absolutely the best of friends.
For the past eight years, the three of us have met each summer for a "Meet in the Middle" weekend, or MIM for short. Two of us live near Philadelphia; the other near Cleveland. Each year one of us picks a town somewhere between those two cities, roughly "in the middle." We've gone as far north as Wellsboro, Pa. (home of the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania), and as far south as Berkeley Springs, W. Va. It really doesn't matter where we meet. What matters is that we meet. 
We arrive Friday afternoon and, in a blink, Sunday afternoon comes and it's time to say goodbye again. In between we talk, walk, eat, read and laugh -- a lot.
There is such sweet pleasure in "hanging out" with the girlfriends who knew you when, whether it's for a long weekend, a long phone call, a Sunday brunch, or just a slice of pizza and a stroll around the mall.
There are two other women in the constellation of friends we called "Our Gang." We grew up together. We shared sleepovers, passed notes in junior high, tried to figure out boys. I tried my first (and last) cigarette with them, listened to Bruce Springsteen for the first time with them, rented my first shore house with them, danced at "the Dunes 'til dawn" with them.
Having survived puberty and high school, we went off to college, some near, some far. Two of us shared an apartment at Penn State for two years. After graduation, three of us (plus a great dog named Alfie) shared a house in Hatboro.
Through those years and ever since, we have shared our lives, our joys, our heartaches. The crossed-out entries in my address book trace the paths of their lives. Miles may separate us, but we are always connected -- by history and by heart. I can't imagine life without them.
My refrigerator now holds a lovely photo of fallen leaves, and a great shot of a black cat for Halloween. I still haven't taken down that portrait from MIM 2010 (not until I print out the portrait from MIM 2011 to take its place).
Here's to friendship -- and 2012!
* The photos here were taken along the path to the Peace Chapel, near the Juniata College campus in Huntingon, Pa., site of MIM 2011.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

One of many to come.

Seen in passing:
One lone oak leaf
twirling toward earth.
Perfect pirouettes,
landing so lightly.