The random thoughts of an architect-turned- lawyer from the deep south living in Washington, DC...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Growing up

I met Tim a few weeks after my fifteenth birthday. It was the summer after my freshman year of high school. One of my best friends had moved to Lakeland, Florida and a couple of us high school best buds planned a trip to spend a few weeks with her that summer. Tim was a friend of hers from school who dressed like a skater and wore Polo Crest cologne. I met him when a large group of us went to the movies to see Universal Soldier. I was a little firecracker back then and I was able to catch his attention pretty quickly. We flirted all night long and I might have even let him steal a kiss or two. Tim and I were pretty inseparable for the rest of my time in Florida. My friend's aunt passed away in Louisiana and our trip was cut short. I was absolutely devastated. I knew I would have to leave, but now it would be a lot sooner than anticipated. I cried and cried over having to leave this guy who had quickly made his way into my heart. We decided to stay in touch.

Since this was a time before the prevalence of internet and cell phones, we wrote letters to each other. Yep, letters. Snail mail. Hand addressed envelopes containing hand written love letters on looseleaf paper. Every day after school, I would run to the mailbox to see if there was anything from Tim. If there was, I would hide in my walk-in closet, reading his letter over and over again. That was only half the fun. The other half came when I wrote him back. I would sit with a pen and paper and allow the emotions inside of me flow onto the paper. Life with Tim and me was simple. We were young enough to refrain from playing the relationship games that would overwhelm me in my later dating years. We were in loooove enough to be open and honest and put all feelings on the line. I didn't realize in my youth just how hard that would be to do in later relationships.

When our parents would go to sleep at night, we would call each other and talk for hours. This ceased upon my parent's receipt of a $200+ long distance bill. Minimal phone conversations didn't stop us. We simply wrote more often. In fact, the more time that went by, the stronger we became. One day, I got a phone call from him asking what I was doing that weekend because he was going to come visit. I think my heart skipped a beat. I'll be damned if he and two of his friends didn't hop in someone's old car and drive thirteen hours so he could see me. During our weekend together, one of his friends slipped up about a conversation they had in the car. The guys told Tim "if she says she loves you and you say it back, you are walking home." Hmph. After that, I was surely not saying it. As I stood there teary eyed with him about to get back into the car to drive off for Florida, he turned to me and said "I'm walking home." That was the first time a guy ever told me he loved me, albeit in a roundabout way.

From that point on, Tim and I decided we were destined to be together. We were going to get married and we wrote about that often in our letters. I recall the plan was to have our wedding reception at Pat O'Briens in New Orleans. We kept in touch for years. Even when we dated other people, we swore we would one day be together. It was always a strange relationship because we never talked about people we dated. However, every boyfriend I ever had knew about Tim. They had to be okay with this "pen pal" of mine in Florida. I was not willing to let him go. I saw Tim again when my family took a vacation to Disney World my senior year in high school. We picked up where we left off. We always did.

The last time I saw Tim was the summer before my senior year in college. I was president of my sorority and our convention was being held at Disney World. This time, though...this time I was in a relationship. A relationship I did not want to put in jeopardy. For the first time since I met Tim, I was not willing to pick up where we left off. We went to dinner. I recall things being awkward. I know it was hard. We got in a "fight" towards the end and that was it. The letters went in a box in my closet, the phone number got lost somewhere and we just lost touch.

I have thought about Tim often over the years. He was a huge part of my life in my formative years. We always had an uncanny way of being able to be open and honest about everything. I would attribute a lot of that to "growing up" together even if it was miles apart. I truly believe the lack of technology played a large part of our communicative abilities as well. There was something just so meaningful and special about all his handwritten letters...letters I have kept to this day. I missed having him as a part of my life. I tried for years to get in touch with him. I used "the google" multiple times to try to located him to no avail. I called information. I took out all of his old letters and tried whitepages.com with the various addresses. If I could just find his dad, I could find him. Nothing. For over six years now, I wondered how he was and where his life has led him.

...until last week...

The technology that was absent from our relationship all those years allowed me to reconnect. In a fit of boredom and procrastination, while playing on myspace, (yeah, I know)...I found Tim! When I saw his picture, my heart skipped a beat. I found Tim! I sent him a message to see if he remembered me. When he replied, he called me Laura Boo. No one has called me that in YEARS. We switched over to regular email and then swapped phone numbers. I called him last Monday and I guess my timing is pretty impeccable because Tuesday was his birthday. We relived our childhoods while I drank red wine in Washington DC and he drank beers in Florida. We caught up on life since the last time we talked over six years ago. I brought out old letters and we laughed at our childhood selves. At one point, I described to him the Valentine's card he MADE me one year. It was pink and red with glitter and cut out hearts and feathers. Of course, he doubted the existence of such a card. So I did what any tech-savy person of today would do: as I held my cell phone with free night minutes in one hand, I used my digital camera to take pictures of the card with the other, then, I emailed it to him so we could both look and laugh together. As we discussed our old handwritten ways, I reflected on the stark contrast of today. The most amazing part of all of this is that even after all these years, some things never change. Our communicative abilities are still pretty uncanny, as we stayed on the phone until 3am. I'm pretty sure there is not another person in the world I could spend five hours on the phone with. I have missed my friend and am so glad to have him back in my life.