Monday, September 26, 2011

"Why are you so far away?" (she said)

I'm reading South of Broad right now, and loving it despite its initial chapters of overwrought, floral prose. I wasn't sure I'd be able to get past the insufferably long, overwritten sentences at the beginning of this book, although they did serve as excellent fodder to entertain T with dramatic readings. (Note to all writers: if a reader has to stop and gasp for air while trying to read one of your sentences aloud, it's probably too long.) Fortunately, Pat Conroy settled down the rhetoric once he introduced additional characters and stopped simply expounding All Things Charleston, and now I'm hooked.

I was thinking last night about the tight group of friends who comprise the heart of the novel, and how so many of my favorite books, movies, and even television shows involve a central group of friends who grew up together over the years. I'm absolutely guilty of romanticizing that sort of camaraderie. We romanticize what we don't have, after all, and my life couldn't be more different than the hometown experience. I'm lucky enough to have friends all over the place, from all sorts of chapters in my life, and many of these friends are as different as could be. I love that about them. If I hadn't gone north for college, I would never have met my fantastic Boston Girls. If I hadn't gone west for graduate school, I would never have met my amazing ABQ crew (or my husband, for that matter). If I hadn't followed T out to Dallas, I would never have met the Champagne Thursday girls. And now that we're in DC, we love the new friends we've made and the new life we're creating. We are constantly evolving.

Despite the knowledge that I wouldn't trade any of what I have for staying in the same town with the same people forever, I still adore wondering what that would feel like. I'll never have kids who'll go to high school with the kids of my high school crew. Most of my high school crew left town like I did anyway. I won't see my college friends at weekend football games or alumni events. Most of us live too far away, and besides, we don't even have a football team anymore. I'm not able to walk over to my graduate school pals' house anymore for breakfast, hashing out the previous night and planning how we'll take over the world tomorrow (oh, how I could use those breakfasts these days!). Heck, my pals don't even live together any more... marriage and babies and all. Time marches on and moves us farther apart geographically. We all visit and stay in touch regularly, but still.

I understand the logic of distance, but my heart can't help but pine for one endless "Big Chill"-style reunion, minus the suicide (although the drama of one person's husband impregnating someone else in the group with his wife's permission would be... exciting?). And while my choices mean I do and always will fly around a lot to see my favorite people and their offspring, how much would I love for them to all be here with me, living in my neighborhood?

Here's a song for today from my friend Ann, who is part of my "Nightswimming" memory, and in comments notes that she feels the same way I do about that song and about that long-ago weekend. Ann left the Triangle like I did and now calls Nashville home. She sent me this clip over the weekend, which immediately  prompted me to tell T to develop some Nashville clients so it'd be easier to get out there regularly. That's exactly how my world keeps getting bigger, by the way. Is it crazy that I sometimes wish it was small?

Thanks, Ann, for knowing this song would make me as happy today as it would have in 1996, sitting in your living room drinking boxed wine. I raise a glass of Franzia White Zin in your honor, and send you a long-lost hug across the airwaves.


  1. I agree with your comments on South of Broad, but totally got absorbed into the story once I waded through the beginning.
    I also think what would my life have been like if I didn't leave NC to head south.

  2. I love this post. I grew up in the same house my whole life. I have friends from when I was 3, our parents travel together, we're in each others weddings, god parents of new babies, etc but my husband moved around so much growing up he doesn't even have friends from college. I've moved multiple times since graduating and most of my neighborhood friends have as well. We all feel torn on continuing to move along to new locals or staying put. I've started warning my friends that for my 30th in 2 years I want everyone in one location for 48 hours.

  3. I have had a little bit of a nomadic life post-college and I often feel the same heartstrings being pulled. I have friends that I only see at weddings because we are all over the country (and now that we're all married, what happens?). Most times I look at it as a blessing, if I hadn't done all of the traveling and moving around, I would never have met these friends, or my husband for that matter. Even though they're far from me, they're in my life but it doesn't bring them any closer for regular visits. At our wedding, we both looked around and realized it would be the only time that we'd ever have this many people that loved us all in one room together. At least the magic of blogs, twitter and facebook bring us all a little closer together between visits.

  4. I'm so glad you wrote about this today, since it allows me to share this little bit of news: Umea plays "Maggie comes over" on a fairly regular basis. Here's how that game goes. Umea approaches and says, "I'm Maggie." I say, "Hi, Maggie!" And then we hug and kiss. Then she says, "Ask me about my house." And I say, "Where are you coming from, Maggie?" Umea says, "My house." And then the game usually starts over.

    It's HILARIOUS and so sweet.

  5. I love this post. It seriously puts a lump in my throat. I've moved my whole life-- and haven't moved since 2004 when I came to SC for grad school. My parents moved all over and, strangely, have just moved back to the town where I went to high school. I miss my college friends. We all wanted the Big Chill reunions on a regular basis, too, so we actually would spend at least one night every week piled up on the couches watching The Big Chill. Sigh. I want my children to grow up with my friends' children. And we have friends here, but in a way it's not the same.

    I will say, on the hopeful and positive side, there is about a 95% chance that we will always live here in Columbia because TC's business is established here. So my children will have those roots that I always wished I had.

    I love visiting my friends all over the country. And I agree with Jen above that on our wedding day we felt truly honored and realized just how special it was that all these people that we loved were in one room together. That will never happen again.

    And... I love that we have such similar taste in music. Nightswimming and Just Like Heaven are two of my favorites. Maybe those songs are putting the lump in my throat? :)

  6. i have a hard time even answering the question "where are you from?" we moved when i was in 7th grade. when i went away to college, i never came back. my sister and i joked that we are addicted to moving but it's sort of true- i get antsy for the next thing when i'm in a place too long.

    my parents have moved twice since high school so i'm used to coming "home" to an unfamiliar place and sleeping in the guest room. and i don't keep in touch with anyone from HS or college, but that's probably a product of my personality, not relocating.

    on the other hand, my husband returns to his old room, posters plastered all over the walls just like 1999. he hangs out with all his old friends and it is SO WEIRD to me.

  7. Yep, exactly. I grew up in one spot but this Texas thing has thrown me off my tidy plan to live in X suburb with BFFs A, B & C and raise our Ralph Lauren-style children all together. I wouldn't trade it, of course, but I definitely feel the pull when I see a tight group of friends like you describe. My husband has that, actually, so I get to live it a bit via him, but it's not the same as the fictional one in my mind.

    I'm in complete agreement about "South of Broad", btw. Though I'm a veteran run-on-sentence writer myself, I felt like I needed a machete to hack through his initial prose; "florid" is just the word for it. It definitely improved as things rolled along.

  8. What a great, great post. I can relate all too well, and I did grow up in the same place all my life. I certainly have good friends from there, but not a solid group that does an annual reunion or anything. I wish that were the case. I am going to link up to this post on my blog this week!

  9. My high school friends are, in fact, almost all in the same place while I live away. It makes me depressed for a few days every time I come back to my life after visiting them, but at least I know they are all in one place where I can find them. The same isn't true of my college friends and that is really tough.

  10. I love this post. My high school and college friends have moved all over the country, my parents are 5 1/2 hours away. My boyfriend and I still live in the town where we went to college, but everyone else has left. It's heartbreaking, but makes getting together that much sweeter.

  11. NU still has a rad hockey team. And we have season tickets. Just sayin'...

  12. I've been meaning to comment on this FOREVER. But I love this post! And miss you!


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