Twenty years is along time not to see a friend.
Marriages, children, jobs and countries kept us apart. There was death and divorce too, but I was hoping to keep this a little more upbeat.
I met Kathy the summer I graduated college. I was a bold, impetuous young woman. Fearless. All I wanted to do was see the world. I worked three jobs during school and saved enough money for a trip to Europe. A trip I would take alone.
In today's world, that seems like nothing, but back then, setting off alone without a cell phone or the Internet was daunting. My mother didn't want me to go, and she was right to be afraid. I know that now that I am a mother.
Fearless, young me was also efficient. So I booked a two-month bus trip on something called Club Europa, a tour company for broke young people.
I was to meet my Club Europa group at a hotel in London.
Standing outside the hotel was this very pretty, but practical blonde Canadian woman named Kathy, who had just graduated university. Kathy had studied urban planning. Of course she did, it's what practical Canadian women do.
We became instant friends. And every summer after Club Europa, I would make a pilgrimage to Canadian cottage country. Cottage country is as Canadian as Canadians get.
Kathy had a cottage on 12 Mile Bay off Georgian Bay, which is off Lake Huron. This will mean something to you if you are Canadian. For the rest of us, this cottage was at the end of the earth, especially if you were coming from Los Angeles.
When you were at the cottage, you were at the cottage. It was near impossible to go anywhere once you got there. Kathy and I would spend countless days talking about nothing and everything, picking wild raspberries, looking for loons from the little aluminum motor boat and pulling beaver sticks from the water.
I still have a beaver stick I plucked from the bay 30 years ago. With great care, I carried that blonde sliver of wood, gnawed bare by a busy beaver, all the way to LA. There is no way in hell that today's airport security would ever let me carry that damn thing on a plane.
Every summer, I packed a California wine I knew she couldn't get in Canada. I also filled my suitcase with fashion magazines for us to pour over while trapped without TV. There was no Internet then, either. You booked your flight by calling a travel agent who issued paper tickets. Remember those days?
Babies changed everything and Kathy and I lost track of each other. A few months ago, I found my long-lost friend through her husband on LinkedIn.
We started catching up through emails, and after much planning, we finally arranged a trip to see each other.
Somehow, the halfway point between Los Angeles and Toronto fell on Fort Myers.
Fast-forward to today, I am on plane to Florida to see Kathy for the first time in 20 years.
Despite the decades, I packed for this reunion as if I were going to the cottage.
In my suitcase was a California wine, a bottle of a Frank Family Vineyard' s Winston Hill Reserve Sangiovese. Good luck finding that at a Winn Dixie market in Florida. My carry-on was weighed down by magazines, because using an app to look at magazines didn't feel nostalgic enough.
As I sat on the plane, I wondered, would we still like each other?
Waiting for me as I got off the plane was my pretty, blonde, practical Canadian. She was exactly the same, except she was dressed like a Floridian.
We spent the next few days gabbing nonstop. The only time we were quiet was when we were sleeping.
We laughed, we cried, we drank Napa wine and flipped through magazines. The loons have been replaced with pelicans, and the aluminum boat is now a golf cart.
Our waists are wider, our ankles a little cankled, but otherwise, we are the same.
I snapped this shot of Kathy late one night when our golf cart died and we needed to be pushed by a neighbor in an SUV.
If that photo doesn't capture the spirit of a woman young at heart on an all-girl adventure... I don't know what does.
The summer we met, we forged a friendship that would endure decades including the decades we were estranged. That, to me, is the definition of friendship.
I went to Fort Myers because I was missing Kathy, but I think the woman I was really missing was me.
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