I spent the weekend catching up with some friends from high school back in good old Arlington, Virginia. The only thing is, good “old” Arlington is actually brand-spanking-new-Arlington. The county is one big construction site. Old houses are being torn down and replaced with new ones. The Ballston area has exploded with buildings and is virtually unrecognizable. These days, there are very few familiar landmarks by which I can navigate around my old hometown.
My friends and I have changed too, of course. We’ve been around the block a few times. We’ve traversed the globe. We’ve gotten degrees and had careers. Some of us have married, some of us have divorced, some of us have had children. Some of us have lost people close to us. Although high school doesn’t seem all that long ago, to my astonishment – I myself have somehow become the mother of a high schooler.
For various reasons, we all found ourselves back in Arlington this weekend and decided to meet up with each other in Clarendon. Back in the day, this part of Arlington consisted of one or two streets with a couple of slightly seedy strip malls. The only reason I ever went there was to go to a little hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant called the Queen Bee. This restaurant is gone, as is pretty much everything else I remember. The whole area has been completely transformed into a bustling mini-metropolis populated by twenty-year-olds. My friends and I, being just a smidge older, felt like a bunch of geriatrics in comparison.
At Cava Mezze, where we had dinner, we held our menus up to our noses and then at arms’ length trying to decipher the tiny print in the dim lighting.
“Do they want to prevent us from actually seeing what’s on the menu? Are they trying to save electricity?” I whined like a petulant old granny.
We moved on to Galaxy Hut, where we soon grew hoarse trying to shout over the clamor of all the young whippersnappers and the thumping music being blasted at full volume. I’m convinced the only possible reason twenty-somethings tolerate such loud music is because they’re not having conversations worth hearing.
Meanwhile, in our corner of the Galaxy, we were having a very interesting conversation. A friend of one of our group whom we had just met started talking about how she happened to have gotten an intimate part of her anatomy pierced in San Francisco by someone with whom the rest of us had gone to high school.
My friend Wendy leaned toward me and shouted, “What did she say she got pierced?”
“It starts with a ‘C’…Don’t make me shout it out loud, Wendy!” I yelled over the din.
“Can we get out of here?,” she said after a while, “I think there’s a coffee shop down the street where we can actually talk.”
Our group minus the piercee, who had drifted off by then, walked a couple of blocks until we found a quiet coffee shop.
My intrepid friend Wendy suggested that it was warm enough to sit outside.
“Sssure!” I said, as I zipped up my coat as far as it would go.
I tried to play it cool. I pretended I felt like this:
even though I actually felt like this:
Thank goodness someone suggested we move a little closer to the café, where we would be less exposed to the wind…I shuffled over there as fast as my legs would carry me.
And then we really caught up. I’ve always liked these friends, but it was lovely to reconnect with them as forty-somethings and to discover that age and life experiences have made them even better than I remembered them being…
The day after…
You can’t really go home again, but sometimes that’s not such a bad thing after all…In fact, sometimes the changes wrought by time can be wonderful.