Picking up where we left off

This past Friday, I was worried, as I often am when I have guests coming into town to spend the weekend at the lake: what if it rained all weekend? 

I had 11 friends (11, that is, including significant others) who wanted to come from North Carolina to see me. Before I moved to Tennessee, I lived in North Carolina for a decade, and I had no family members there, but I often felt (especially the first few years) that I needed some. 

I did not meet these particular friends until I had lived in NC for four years, and those first four years were tough. Many times I had yearned to leave: when a big relationship (and the reason I was in NC to begin with) broke apart, then again when another important relationship broke apart, then again when a dear friendship shattered. It felt back then that all the big reasons to stay were falling away from my life. I already felt a pull to go back to my Midwestern roots; these other reasons felt like feet kicking me back over the state lines. 

Then I met these friends.

We found each other through contra dancing, and sure, I can say it was my job and dancing but really more than anything it was these friends who made me stay in NC for the next six years. And when I say “made me” I mean they made it possible for me to stay.

These friends became the structure of my days, the people I sought and relied on. Sometimes you get to a point where you know people long enough that you, as the saying goes, pick up right where you left off. You have a history together. We sure as hell do: We have shuttled one another through divorces and break-ups, through leaving old jobs and landing new ones, through moves to bigger houses and sometimes smaller apartments. We’ve been there for the deaths of beloved animals and dear parents, and once, more recently, through the death of one of us. 

But we also had plain ol’ fun: We read poems to each other at parties, water-colored on a backyard deck, splashed in pools on hot summer Saturdays, tie-dyed in a kitchen, hiked in Duke Forest, built bonfires, and played Sardines in an apartment complex. 

We ate countless dinners while sitting on a picnic bench underneath a veil of trees at Weaver Street Market. 

We stuffed our dance gear and sleeping bags and tents into each other’s cars and drove to dance weekends, and we sat in a circle in Barry’s living room and played Where the Wild Wind Blows until we knew too much information about each other.

We re-gifted Christmas presents at White Elephant parties, danced under disco lights to 80s music, and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning—talking, singing, laughing—in the end too exhausted to sleep or go home. 

I wanted to be reminded of the home we built from friendship. I wanted to see them—maybe even needed to see them—and I wanted them to have some plain ol’ fun. 

I looked at the weather forecast Friday: scattered thunderstorms all weekend. Oh well, I thought. At least we have each other. But it didn’t rain one drop on Friday, and threatened but never did on Saturday, and the sun came out full blast on Sunday. We floated on the lake, and added history to our history books.

And I know: the weather doesn’t really matter. Years from now, I won’t remember whether it rained. I’ll remember my friends showed up, that we picked up right where we left off.