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If you have ever reunited with your friends from your childhood or teenage years, you will know this about humans: we are essentially the same people we were when we were 14. My mom says she has read that our basic personalities are in place by the time we are SIX. I spent several days this past week with my oldest friend, Becky, whom I met when we were both 13 and newly moved to Europe (she to the Netherlands, me to Belgium) for the first time. She and I went to school together for 2.5 years and she moved back to the States in November of 1979. From then we didn't see each other for nearly 11 years. She spent a long weekend with me in Maryland sometime during my college years and we had a handful of visits over the next 11 years or so. She came to Chicago to help me in a crisis. I went to New Mexico to see her children when they were very small. Anders and I flew out and visited her the summer we met. She was my maid of honor at my wedding before we moved to Sweden.

In 2004 I flew out to Oregon to Becky's home again, and there we had a mini-reunion with several others of our gang of girlfriends from our time in junior high: Kelly, Robin, Denise, Julie, and Jill. Becky and I were the core of this group, touching both the beginning and the end of it. 2 of the girls from the very beginning who weren't at the reunion (Karin & Angelica) never even met the girls from the end of it. It was weird then, 5 years ago, seeing how everyone had changed, and yet how very much they had stayed the same. And it was even weirder this time (with fewer of us: Jill & Julie couldn't come). Even after 30+ years, I could recognize the essential personalities of those 7th and 8th grade girls that were my friends then and who are my friends still, to one degree or another.

I miss the Netherlands fiercely, even though the area we stayed at during this visit doesn't match what I think of in my head when I think of Holland. The school that we went to doesn't even exist in its original format anymore (it was torn down years ago and a new school built) and most of the landmarks and places of interest have changed. We did go to the school but it was a rather pointless exercise touring a building that we had no memories of. The track and bleachers were the same and the dorm building where I lived in my 9th grade year during school weeks is still there, though it's an elderly care facility now. But we had fun together, looking at old yearbooks and reminiscing, and eating Dutch frikadelles (which my husband can't understand my love for).

One day we spent zooming around South Limburg visiting castles, which are in common supply all over the countryside. Schaesburg, Hoensbroek, Schaloen, Wittem and Valkenburg. We toured the Velvet Cave under Valkenburg castle and went to the 4th of July festivities off-base near the school. That was fun, though the fireworks show was relentlessly over-done. On Tuesday, Becky and Kelly and I took the car and drove around and found their old houses and took photos. (I didn't make it to my old house in Belgium this visit, which was over an hour away). On Wednesday, Becky went with our family to Efteling amusement park, which I wasn't sure would be age-appropriate for the kids and which turned out to be EXCELLENT (thanks to bezigebij for the original recommendation), while her husband, Pete, whose mother is English, went to Luxembourg City to find the cemetery his grandfather, who died in the the Battle of the Bulge, is buried in.

It's weird. I'm at the end of my vacation, the middle of summer and the beginning of working again. I can't tell if I'm coming or going or what. It's not a comfortable feeling, I must say, even if that sounds stupid. I have a lot in my head right now: all jumbled and mumbled together. Things I want to remember, things I need to write down. Things that I need to think about. I have 2 more days to call vacation, but I can already feel myself yearning for regular routines, for work, for social interaction and my usual life. It's all been a dream, somehow, one in which I discovered that I'm much closer to the 14-year-old I once was than I had any idea of.
 peaceful
mood: peaceful
music: Ilse DeLange—Puzzle Me


Comments

Do you know why Jesus doesn't eat frikadelles?

God knows what's in it... ;-))

Haha! Amen to that.

hahahah! I may have to get some of my Dutch LJ friends to send me a care package of frikadelles and chicken croquets! :D

I think they only sell them frozen. But I could be wrong, I'm a vegetarian, so I never buy them. ;-)

(Anonymous)
From Megsie

I love visiting with my old childhood friends, it seems that there is a comfort to be with people who know your history, and know who you were before all of the walls and sensors were built in. And yet, my friends accepted the essence of who I was, even the socially unacceptable parts. Now, in my life, I have to be the "grown-up" and the "mother." It is much more fun to play the old role of kid with her BFFs.

Your vacation sounds like a huge success. Good times with family and with friends. I also crave the routine after a time, so it seems like the perfect time to get back to work~ enjoy!

Re: From Megsie

It is the perfect time...I suppose vacation wouldn't be nearly as nice if it just kept on going.

Even if you can't tell if you're coming or going, it sounded like a lovely vacation.

It was definitely a good one!

I enjoyed reading this post and can very much relate to these feelings of "how we remain the same person despite time and distance". And that strange, unexplainable feeling of being connected to a place from our past. And that special meaning of friendships formed in one's early teens.

Also, really glad you had a chance to go to and enjoy the Efteling. Fun, aint it?

Efteling was awesome! We didn't even have time to see the whole park, and the wooden rollercoaster was closed, but we enjoyed most of the big ones and will try and get back some day. :)

I'm constantly amazed by how much we all look pretty well the same as at that age, despite the wrinkles and sagging. But it's funny, I'm currently working with someone who happened to be there at my very first job ever, 15 years ago. And he cannot believe how much I've changed. He says I was incredibly shy back then, and I suspect he's right, although I imagine I had the same sense of humour and emotions floating around under my shyness. But shyness is one thing that can cause people to change a lot I guess. Sorry, just pondering out aloud :)

I was supposedly shy, too, back in the day, though my mom says I was bossy with my friends :) I know there is some vestigial shyness lurking because even though I've learned over the years how to deal with new friends and new situations, there's always a certain sense of trepidation.

We carry these graduating selves inside of us and never let them go, although hopefully they do evolve, at least somewhat.

Bet it's a blast to be fourteen again!

It is, indeed! :)

The dorm now an elderly care facility brought to mind old folks whooping up a good time, as every 14 year "old" should.

You are the wisest 14 year old I know!

Ha! That gang of friends and I wrote a short story, strangely enough, back when we WERE 14, about all living together in an old folks home and terrorizing it with our 14-year-old senses of humor :)

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