Beth, Jordan, Julie, Cara, Sara
Wherever, whenever we meet
there is love.
Gathering every year or two
we see our selves in each other’s faces
the reflection of younger features known so well from pictures
shared and reshared and texted at amusing moments
for years on end
until we see the young faces in the middle-aged
and can no longer tell the two apart
and we know it doesn’t matter anyway.
We see our own selves at 19 and 26 and 30 and 38 and 42
and, now: 47, 48.
In one visit everyone suddenly has BIFOCALS
and then eventually we’ve all upgraded to PROGRESSIVES
and each time someone ventures to share another change in her life
the odd CHIN HAIR or the first HOT FLASHES
or a HEALTH SCARE or a disdain for PROMPOSALS
someone else or four someone elses raise their hands
and say, Oh, yes – me, too, with that thing you shared. Me, too.
The funny texts from parents
and kids growing up awfully fast, with moody eighth graders being a real thing
that needs to be discussed at length
and one of us with a son about to leave for the college where we all met
each other’s faces
29 years ago
and that feels very, very eerie and wonderful.
There is love
and there is laughter, so much of it,
the kind that hurts your face
and your abs
and makes you run for the bathroom very quickly after age 40
and that requires you to find a box of Kleenex fifteen minutes into the visit
because at least three of you are already crying laughing and no one can breathe
and there’s something said about starting a podcast in which it’s all dead air
because of the incessant silent unbreathing laughter
and it’s not a visit until she needs to take her inhaler from all the laughing.
Which only happens with these particular friends.
We see our past and present selves all bound into one
when we look into each other’s faces
and we see the future as well,
one in which we will take trips
New Orleans, ASAP!
Mexico, for our 50th birthdays!
or just, you know, anywhere that lets us talk
so probably not a library or movie theater
and we talk about building a compound
for us all when we get old
to take care of each other
where there will be talking and laughter
amid the shared meals and care
and noisy chickens on the roof so we always have fresh eggs,
but we won’t hear them because we’ll all be a little deaf, she assures us.
And so we stand in middle age
or rather lie doubled over laughing in middle age,
tears streaming from our eyes,
our oldest truest selves revealed to us yet again
and seeing with gratitude
past, present, and future together
in each other’s lovely faces
and all it really means is
there is love.