Thursday, November 4, 2010

Who Do You Miss?

Back in Sonora, looking out my big picture window, I see how every few minutes, a subtle breeze comes through and blows dozens of tiny oak leaves from the tree across the street, and they fall like a graceful curtain of gold snowflakes to the ground. Watching it, I imagine what it will be like when snow falls here in the winter. It’s a primary reason I moved up here, the idea of snow, just enough to enjoy the experience, not enough to impact my daily life. Growing up in the Bay Area, snow is not an experience I’ve ever had. Yet I can easily picture it: Sitting with a fire in my big gas fireplace, a soft blanket covering me, dog's warm body on one side of me, cat's on the other, drinking a cup of hot tea, writing or reading a book, plump crystalline flakes falling magically from a gray sky.

As soon as that tinge of crisp edge hits the air, I anticipate fall and winter. It happens every year automatically, my cells light up, and I am like a naive kid looking forward to so much. I’m sure I’ve written about all that I love: the leaves, the cooler weather, the warmer clothes, the coziness of hunkering down, the rain, the first storms, holidays—forgetting each year, with near total amnesia, that the season also brings its shadow side: darkness, and its emotional counterparts: losses, memories, melancholy, missing, grief.

I was reading some prompts on the NaBloPoMo site and one caught my attention: who do you miss, it asked. Who do I miss? I didn’t have to think, because the answer came instantaneously. I miss my friend Tanya. Maybe because it’s fall, and I have so many fall memories that have to do with her. Halloweens together. Fall Festivals. Holiday boutique-ing. How we used to drop our kids off the first day of school in early September, autumn already in the air those early mornings, then we’d head to the local cafĂ© for breakfast. Every year for years it was our tradition. Summer with the kids was over, routine was back, and we’d have a morning to ourselves--finally--once again. We’d spend hours over our food and talk and laugh and enjoy each other’s company like really good friends are supposed to.

We met when her oldest and my youngest started kindergarten, and our friendship lasted fifteen years. There aren’t many people in my life now or ever that I remember the first time I ever saw. But I remember her. There she was outside the classroom door, much younger than I, cute, perky, waving goodbye to one kid, pushing the other in a stroller, electric blue eyes, a lovable, insecure smile, and a rare and engaging sweetness. We gravitated toward each other, and our friendship grew until we were almost inseparable; No one made me laugh like she did. Few people forged their way into my heart the way she did. No one was easier for me to be with, talk to. The boundary between us melted away, we saw each other daily, and talked on the phone at least once a day. There was little, if anything, that we didn't and couldn't talk about. We were there for each other,through good times and through hard times, as our families evolved, as our kids grew and changed, as we grew and changed; until, I guess, one change too many, our friendship suffered, and over the course of about a year, it cracked, crumbled, and finally broke for good.

It's been years but I still think of her more often than I ever thought I would. Mostly when the season turns, the days shorten and grow cooler, life turns more inward. The beauty and the melancholy of fall. Two edges of the same sword. Two sides of the same coin. The leaves at their most stunning just before they die.

I could wax philosophical. I could talk about how people come into our lives at certain times, for certain purposes. How few people hop aboard for the long haul, most for a chapter or two. How to everything there is, as they say, a season. And it's all true. And she was in my life for a big and important chapter; a long, enduring season; she was a huge and wonderful part of my life. And... I miss her. Always, but most poignantly, in fall.

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