I’ve decided that I’ve written enough about death lately and am on to the business of living.

I just did a little R&D trip with my two college besties, Susan and Bob. We traveled from far flung places, albeit some further than others: Capetown, South Africa (Susan), and Los Angeles (me) to meet at La Guardia to be swept up by our friend Bob and spirited away to Carmel, NY. The last time we were all together was four years ago, at the life celebration of my husband.

We met at Princeton, back in the day, that day being 1978, 1979 or 1980. Memory is a tricky animal, and you’d think you would remember with more exacting clarity how you met such important people in your life. I know I met Bob before I met Susan, but can’t for the life of me remember the origin story of our meeting. None of the three of us were in the same majors, though we found our connection through theatre, of course. Bob and I were mismatched mates, sophomore year falling into together as boyfriend/girlfriend, knowing that we were mad about each other, but just not understanding that we played on different teams. After we sorted that out, we became life long friends, with an easy and resilient band of familial love stretching between us.

Susan and I met in our Junior year, when I was an RA in what was then called Princeton Inn. Susan lived in the house right next door to the Inn, Alexander House, and somehow we connected and were charged with the running of a theatre in the basement of Princeton Inn. We partnered with Veronica Brady, who worked in the administration of the McCarter Theatre. We had a wild year of producing shows for nothing in that black box college theatre space. In addition, Susan and I ran together (how remote and unlikely does that feel at this point?) gamboling for easy 5-10 mile lopes through the woods surrounding Princeton Seminary. It’s all a blur but the most important fact about Susan and my origin story is that after I had been living in Venice in my post college year plus abroad, Susan wrote me and promised a job as a dresser at the McCarter Theatre, where she had become the Associate Production Manager. I had started to worry about getting home to “begin my life” and to begin paying down my student loans when her offer came. The job was on a pre-Broadway run of Play Memory, an autobiographical play by Joanna Glass. Aside from bringing me home to a paying job in the theatre on a show directed by the legendary director Hal Prince, her call brought me to into proximity with my future husband. Susan has always been proud of this and Jimmie and I’ve always been grateful as well.

There was a fourth member of our merry band, impish Bill C, with whom we lived Senior year in Edwards Hall, and after that year, in the summer, spending time in the house we affectionately called Park Place, which was across the street from our old Theatre classroom building. It was a luxurious senior year and subsequent langorous summer, spent modeling for our painter friend, Laura Clark, watching Bill create his breakfast towers of Bagel, peanut butter, tuna fish, swiss cheese and capers in the kitchen. We had long philosophical conversations into the wee hours of those sweet nights. Bob and Bill and I had spent the previous summer in San Francisco. Over the eventful summer, Bill and I shopped by bus for a spiritual home. On Sunday mornings, we’d board various buses and went all over the city sampling the Catholic Church, various Episcopal services, but never concluding with a satisfactory spiritual practice. We sure did have fun, chanting, “Come on, bussy, bussy” as we waited for the fairly reliable Muni bus system to spirit us along. Ironically, I no longer have a religious bone in my body, but remember those times, that hunger for seeking something more lasting than ourselves as particularly poignant after the loss of Bill. During the week that summer, Bob and Bill and I had jobs at Macy’s, giggling in inventory as we assembled training manuals for Macy’s employees and used our roller skates to quickly move through the shelves of product. I remember the night of the 4th of July, linking arms and singing “We’re off to see the Wizard” all the way from Golden Gate Bridge’s fireworks display (they shot up into the fog and were never seen again) back to my Dad’s flat in North Beach. And the laughter. And the ease. And the wretched sorrow when Bill succumbed to HIV in the early 90s, rending the fabric of our foursome.

The remaining three of us have allowed our lives to scatter to the farthest ends of the country and world, but we have remained close, with Bob and Susan participating in my marriage, childrearing, and the eventual close of my marital chapter and me in theirs. We’ve stolen moments from our busy careers and lives to gather together, and have always taken exquisite joy and succor from those moments. To be in the company of friends who know you as well or maybe better than you know yourself is an incredible gift. I tell my students that the friends they make in college will sustain them throughout their lives. As we rounded the bend into our 60s, with me leading the pack, we chose to try to spend a weekend together around Susan’s birthday. It was a proof of concept moment, as we tried out the idea of meeting for fun, for celebration, rather than around a solemn occasion of support friendship.

We hatched the plan during one of our weekend zoomathons, sitting in our own homes, linked by the pandemic tool we’ve all become so reliant on. The events centered around Susan’s birthday, but included a sporting event: the culmination of a NCAA basketball tournament which featured Susan’s nephew. As a result, I looked forward to seeing her brother, Scott, who had spent about 6 years on Los Angeles during the time of Jimmie’s and my early marriage. I hadn’t seen Scott since he’d moved to Connecticut, probably 25 years ago. Susan’s nephew’s team was Williams College, so our weekend included a jaunt to Williamstown, and an overnight at the posh Williams Inn, the game, and a dinner out.

I flew the red eye from Los Angeles arriving early Thursday morning at La Guardia, and promised to make my way over to Susan’s terminal for easy collection by Bob. After sitting for about an hour people watching in Terminal B, I began to make my way over to Terminal C, where Susan’s flight was arriving 4 hours later than mine. I boarded a shuttle bus emblazoned with Terminal B and C, which promptly took me away from LaGuardia, into the heart of Queens. Sitting in the rear of the bus, I watched it fill with returning travelers, and wind it’s way throughout Queens, and I expected it to return to Terminal C. This became less likely as the bus emptied at the subway terminal, then continued, carrying only one other passenger, an 8-year-old boy who was on FaceTime with his mom the entire trip. When he exited the bus, I made my way up to the front, where the driver told me he was ending his shift there, but helpfully directed me a few blocks to the return bus. I arrived back at the Delta terminal, dignity somewhat intact. I had nothing but time, so it was perfect that I got a side tour of NYC.

It was bliss to see Susan in the Airport. After a four year separation, within minutes, it felt like no time had passed at all.

Being the local, Bob had to do a lot of driving over the weekend, which he navigated graciously and for which we were eternally grateful. Coming to collect us at La Guardia turned out to be the stressiest drive he had to do. Finally he alerted us that he was near and we went outside to the curb to await his arrival. We were so eager, that we tried to get into the first blue SUV that pulled up, opening the hatch and getting ready to throw our bags in the back when the startled Uber driver came around the side of the car to help and called me Anton. Oops. Had a good laugh over that and soon found the correct car with Bob driving it.

On our way back to Carmel, we stopped at a local bagel store. Susan was craving bagels and I’m happy to say we fulfilled that mutual craving by consuming about nine over three days. We grocery shopped, and returned to the house to make a supper out of bagels and cream cheese. Sorry, Bill, no peanut butter, tuna, swiss or capers. (Fortunately for me we didn’t ever get to her Dunkin Donuts craving…) We all were completely knackered, and went to bed at 9:00. So much for the reliving our youthful late nights in college theatre.

Friday we spent walking around the lake, absorbing the beauty of the community where Bob lives, and then lounged lazily in his house, fire burning, giggling about topics we hadn’t discussed in over forty years and new ones as well.

Saturday, we started the drive up to Williamstown through fat snowflakes, Els worrying in the back seat, Bob assuring her that it was not hard to drive through them. We arrived in Williamstown, having booked a spacious double queen room at the new Inn. Impressively, the desk clerk didn’t show signs of wondering what kind of polyamorous practice was going to happen but handed over the keys to the room. Later, I remarked that it was probably a common practice for young college age students to pile 4 into a room, but ventured that it less common for adults north of 60. But the overnight was our proof of concept moment. Prior to planning our Summer of ’24 excursion to Italy, we needed to find out if we could manage. Though our running days are over, and the memories of our youth a blissful mash of so many commonly held experiences that span continents, when we arrive together we are firmly in the nave of our spiritual home.

Come on bussy, bussy, andiamo to the next adventure!

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