Even Longer Friends
Her father was a Jewish Professor, her mother was a former rose princess of Norwegian descent; my parents were hard-working German immigrants. I stood in the sixth grade school line alone, the new kid. I don't remember exactly what bonded us, but somehow we became immediate friends. After a few days, Kimberly, she was simply Kim to me back then, approached me in all seriousness. She confided in me that she would understand if we could no longer be friends because she was Jewish. I had no idea what she was talking about, but back then the horrors of World War II were still fresh in the minds of many as evidenced by popular movies and TV shows such as Hogan's Heroes and The Great Escape. The villains, as well as the clowns, were always the Germans. I suppose that at the age of 9, I hadn't given much thought to how my race or the race of those around me could affect relationships. I never heard racist or diminutive comments of a racial nature from my parents. I do remember when Martin Luther King was assassinated. My mom upon hearing the news sighed sadly and said, "Oh no, not him too." When I asked her about her comment she simply said that they killed a man who was doing much good. Funny how you remember those small things. It was easy to assure Kim that this would not in any way impact our friendship. We quickly became best friends.
The race question never came up again, but the religious one did. I was raised in a Christian home. Kimberly informed me she was an agnostic. I had no idea what an agnostic was. She informed me that unlike an atheist who professes that there is no God, an agnostic acknowledges the possibility of His existence, but merely defers to uncertainty. I didn't quite know what to make of this. In my young mind, I remember being distraught by the thought of this.
Our friendship developed over those early years. I met her parents and visited her beautiful home nestled in the hills above our home town. I remember her father more than I remember her mom. He was warm with a kind sense of humor. They would invite me to go out to dinner with their family which was an incredible novelty to me as my family rarely went out and never on weeknights. We invited Kimberly to go backpacking. I think it was in the mountains that our friendship was sealed. My father had an old German hat that he always wore on backpacking trips. A gust of wind whipped the hat off of his bald head and swept it into a nearby lake. Before we could retrieve it, it was carried far off beyond our reach. We watched from the shore as the hat bobbed on and silently slipped into the frigid water. I don't know where she got it, but Kimberly managed to find a replacement of the exact traditional German variety which he wore on many future trips. There was also the time, when after a particularly arduous trek over Italy Pass, we decided to stay in base camp . We had met a couple of cute guys and decided that fishing and flirting was more fun than climbing Mt. Tom. One of the guys was named Bron. Apparently his father was a paleontologist and his son was born during a large Brontosaurus excavation. We were both quite smitten.
Junior High came and I attended one school, Kimberly the rival one at the other end of town. Kimberly would still go on summer backpacking trips with us, especially as my dad started taking large groups of young people into the high country but our friendship lacked the dailiness of those early school years. We did attend the same High School but by this time, our interests were diverging.
Kimberly pursued a degree in International Relations and then a law degree. I ended up with a nursing degree and was married shortly thereafter. She too married. I received a picture of her wedding She looked stunning, slender, radiant, with a wildflower bouquet in hand. Her husband was also an attorney and they were living in LA. I married a teacher and we moved to the suburbs in search of affordable housing. By then, I was pregnant with my first child and worked part time. Kimberly was working for a top corporate law firm and was on a career trajectory to the top.
There were years of very little contact except for a birth announcement of her daughter Mia and occasional Christmas cards. Twenty years later, the world was changing. For better or worse, Facebook entered the scene and suddenly, ties that were lost could be found. I don't quite remember who or how, but Kimberly re-entered my life. We set a date to meet in person.
We started on common ground and decided to hike up Mt. Baldy, one of three 10.000 foot plus mountains that skirt the LA basin. It was a beautiful day. We began our trek and began to catch up on 20 years of life. Our conversation immediately flowed with openness and vulnerability. I shared what I viewed as my very ordinary life. Being married for 20 plus years, raising three almost grown sons, working as a nurse and transitioning to life as an entrepreneur and the challenges that came with that as well as the freedom it provided. She shared about her latest job. How she ended up as the lead council for a multi billion dollar home developer and how the stress almost destroyed her and how she felt she had lost so much of herself through her career. We stopped at a small hut along a creek where we enjoyed our lunches. I marveled at how surprisingly beautiful this place was. We continued to meander up the steep switchbacks of Old Baldy's face. She openly shared about her marriage how it had painfully ended in divorce. We talked about our parents. Her father, as intellectually keen as ever, her mother deceased. She affectionately remembered my parents as I shared that they were still very active, still loved the mountains and ventured there often. As we were walking and talking there were so many moments when I caught myself saying...me too. I feel that way too. I like that also. I have thought that as well.
We arrived at the peak, took some selfies. Our conversation ebbed and flowed naturally. The miles passed. We descended along the backbone, a precipitous path that is along the spine of the ridge and falls away steeply on both sides. We talked about shared memories. and dreams. I talked about faith and God while Kimberly shared that she was still an agnostic, but hungered for faith, and confessed it was a difficult journey. We ended our hike at the old ski lodge, rode down the rickety chair lift and finished the day with a celebratory beer
That was close to ten years ago and even though time and events continue to pass and even though our time together has been limited, I consider Kimberly one of my dearest friends. In some ways this surprises me. On the surface we are so different. Kimberly is a progressive liberal, I am generally a conservative. I've been married to the same man for over 30 years, Kimberly currently lives with her fiance , I am a Christian, Kimberly is still an agnostic although she recently told me that she really doesn't like the word agnostic and considers it a bit of a cop out. I realize that it is this kind of ability for critical introspection that draws me to her and despite our external differences we are very much the same. In the same way that Kimberly struggles to find faith, I wrestle through my faith to see God more clearly. It is in this open place of dialogue and vulnerability that our friendship stands. Kimberly still uses big words. I notice she does this when she is making a point, it must be the lawyer in her, but even when she is making a point our friendship is seasoned and I welcome the challenge of her sharp mind. I reflect how even among my friends that may be ideologically more like me, it is rare to have deep conversations where dialogue is actually that; two people sharing ideas, listening, considering, being challenged and trying to understand.
Our friendship's deepest intersection is Kimberly's deep aesthetic sense and longing for beauty. There is a power in beauty that draws us both . It speaks of Essence and I pray that the Beautiful One will whisper and haunt and that seeking will become sight. I pray but I also stand back and love. When we choose to love, we release the burden of trying to change and convince. We simply say, I love.