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Hot Topics: Time with old friends invigorates

Kristen Jordan Shamus • Jun 12, 2013 at 10:29 PM

Time with old friends invigorates

By Kristen Jordan Shamus

Detroit Free Press


I glance at my watch. It’s 8 a.m. I am thousands of feet above the ground, somewhere between Detroit and Minneapolis (Green Bay? Or Milwaukee, perhaps?), desperately trying to keep my elbows from touching the man in the seat next to me.

I flip through People and wonder why I’m always sucked into buying that vapid magazine at airports. I reach for the Vanity Fair in my bag and feel better, even though a hairy-faced Brad Pitt stares at me from the cover. Why hasn’t he been clean shaven since he hooked up with Angelina Jolie?

I think about my kids. By now, Julia is at school. Are Sarah and Sam still tucked under the covers or are they perched on bar stools in the kitchen sucking down Go-Gurt tubes and begging for cartoons?

I look at the other kids on the plane longingly, even when they whine. While I’ll acknowledge a grown-ups-only, long weekend with college friends sounds wonderfully indulgent, it also feels wrong. It feels irresponsible to leave my babies.

But it’s too late. I’m already on my way. I gave in to the urgings of my husband, my mother, my friends. “You need this,” they said. “It’ll be great for you,” they told me. “When was the last time you did anything for yourself?” they asked.

They’re right. And so I here I am.

It’s been 17 years since I lived in a big old sorority house perched on a hill in Syracuse, N.Y. It’s been 17 years since I shared a room with broad-smiled Anita from New York City or trekked to class with artsy Allison from New Jersey or hung out with tell-it-like-it-is Julie from Massachusetts.

We graduated. We found jobs. We got married. We had babies. And we forgot about who we used to be. A couple of years ago, we reconnected on Facebook, mostly commenting on photos of one another’s kids and status updates.

In late January, I read a story in the Wall Street Journal online about a group of prep school buddies who after graduation began an elaborate long-distance game of tag. Every year during the month of February, they’d travel the country to tag one other member of the group. And at the end of the month, the last person who’d been tagged would be “it” until the following year.

It made me laugh. It made me think of Anita, Allison and Julie.

And so I “tagged” the three of them in a post on Facebook, with the simple words: “Love this story. How much fun would this be?” In the weeks that followed, we began to correspond a little more. We began to plot. First, we considered meeting up in Niagara Falls, a drivable distance for us all.

But my husband balked at that idea. “Niagara Falls? Really? If you’re going to do this, there’s only one place to do it: Vegas, baby!”

I shook my head. Too outrageous.

“Throw it out there,” he said. “See what happens.”

The Vegas suggestion was a winner.

Anita booked a room at the Bellagio. Allison booked appointments for us at the Caesar’s Palace spa. I scored tickets to the Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil show at the Mirage.

Though Julie couldn’t make it, when the rest of us arrived in Las Vegas, we were giddy. For all the years that had passed, and for all the things that had changed in our lives, we were still very much the same.

We walked the strip, laughing at all the outrageous things we saw (and heard) along the way. We posed for silly pictures. We sat by the pool, and ordered girly drinks at every meal. None of us gamble, but for an hour or so, we played the penny slots. Collectively, we might have spent $10, which we thought was hilarious. Mostly, we remembered how good we had it all those years ago.

We should have appreciated the dining hall food a little more—even if it was pretty bad, at least we didn’t have to cook ourselves. We should have been more thankful for all that free time, just sitting around, watching “Seinfeld” and “Friends” with our friends. We joked about our exes, grateful they didn’t become our husbands, and wondered what happened to some of the people we used to know.

We fretted a bit about our kids. Were they OK at home without us? Yes. Were they going hungry? No. Did they make it to gymnastics, to soccer, to that party? Sure did. Were they missing us too much? Not at all.

Before we left, we pledged to do this again next year—maybe not in Vegas, but perhaps somewhere closer. Because to appreciate what you’ve got, sometimes you need to step away from it. You need to remember who you used to be to figure out where you’re headed. And who better to show you the way than your oldest friends?

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