Did you ever have a chance encounter that turned into a lifelong treasure? I met my friend Carol in the 11th floor ladies room of 26 Broadway in downtown Manhattan back in about 1985.
We didn’t even work for the same company. I worked for E.F. Hutton financial services firm (with the infamous tag line at the time – ‘When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.’) And Carol worked for a coffee commodities trading company (I think because she liked coffee?). We just started chatting and thus began a 30+ years – and counting – friendship.
Carol and I were both so NOT corporate types. Me being a writer and Carol talking to me about literature and her strong faith, and all kinds of deep and cool things that bonded us immediately.
We discovered we took the same Long Island Railroad train line for part of our trip and started commuting together. She turned me on to Thomas Hardy, probably my favorite 19th Century novelist, when she told me about how she had just read Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Or it may have been Far from the Madding Crowd. In any case, I went on to read every Hardy novel because I loved the wild moors, love stories, character portrayals, and old-fashioned living and writing. It took me back to my longed-for English major days.
She also comforted me during a really anxious period in my life. I would look back later and call it my ‘mid-20s crisis.’ I’m not even 100 percent sure what was going on with me back then, but I found the transition from college and living at home, to working and commuting, difficult. And it took me awhile to ‘settle into things’ in the ‘real world’.
Carol would share with me things that comforted her – even scripture – always being really careful to say she wasn’t proselytizing, and she never did. And always being entirely empathetic, nonjudgmental, and sharing her own life experiences and insecurities. Right from the start, she proved herself to be a caring, faithful friend, through and through, with a great sense of humor and a big heart.
We got to know her husband Chris too and when we both had kids, they got to know each other a little when they were really young.
Sadly, Carol and family moved away from Long Island, I think it was in the ’90s. Chris had just gotten his PhD in Civil Engineering and got the teaching position he wanted down in Louisiana.
[Funny little sidebar is that when Carol moved down to Louis[e]iana, another newly found, ‘chance encounter’ friend I had met in La Maz class, named Louise, moved down to North Carolina. I always found that amusing. Louise was my funky hairdresser friend, who I used to tease about being in the Witness Protection program for the dramatically different hair color she always had picking up our kids from preschool.]
Anyway, Carol and I continue to have a close, long-distance relationship, even with she and her family now settled in Arkansas. We talk on the phone periodically and often around our respective birthdays. We continue to share books (she turned me on to another all-time favorite of mine, The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd). We share news of our now-mostly-grown kids and all the great experiences they’re having. An incredible runner all through school, her daughter Grace (with me in the picture on the right below) is now in the South Sudan working with Action Against Hunger as part of a Nutrition fellowship. And their younger son Christian – also an impressive runner – recently got his college degree in Engineering and I believe is pursuing a career in Finance.
Long ago, Carol gave me the Friends Are Forever picture that I look at every day on my bedroom wall and I’m thankful for that long-ago encounter in downtown NYC. She’s truly one of the most refreshingly pure, positive souls around, who I’m so proud and privileged to call my friend … I hope forever.