We've been friends since the fifth grade. I am not going to say how many years that is, only that it's a lot. I don't remember how or exactly when our friendship started. We lived across the street from each other until the day my family moved away. There were no scheduled play dates, neither of us was involved in any sport. But we were always together. She came to my house to see the Christmas tree and eat my mom's Greek cookies. I got invited for Sunday night Chinese and learned all the Yiddish I know from her father. In between we spent hours on the phone in a day before call waiting and multiple phone lines.
Our lives got much different as adults. She chose marriage, children and a house in the suburbs while I opted for a career, serial monogamy interspersed with casual dating and a life in the city. We don't see each other every day the way we did growing up, but it never seems to matter. Because when we do, we pick up where we left off.
That is what happens with friends who know you from a time you didn't know you. The love is unconditional. You didn't become friends because of a common interest you just became friends because something in your young mind told you it was the right thing to do.
So when we planned for her to visit me in the city Sunday and she told me she wanted to see the holiday window displays, I said of course. Yes, I would fight the crowds with her on Fifth Avenue and yes, I would go see that tree.
These are the things I avoid as a New Yorker.
But I didn't try to talk her out of it. After all, I knew Monday morning I no longer had to deal with my own throng of people in an office. I would have the quiet of my writing space. I could look at it differently.
Besides this is what we did as teenagers. As I gave her directions to the subway from the LIRR and I heard her voice quiver. I reminded her that we used to do this, that at fifteen we would take the bus up Union Turnpike to Kew Gardens, transfer to the subway and wander the streets of the 'city'. That's what people who grow up in the boroughs call Manhattan, the 'city" We would leave exhausted and full of excitement from the adrenalin rush.
I navigated us through the crowds in that way that distinguishes the locals from the tourists. We paused at Bergdorf's, walked through the main floor of Bendels and got as far as across the street from Saks. We laughed as we always did. She reminded me of the time we saw Romeo and Juliet at the Paris theatre and when we went to Radio City to see the Christmas show. I saw the city as I did when I was a kid.
As different a path as we have taken in life, I felt as I always did. Completely me. Completely accepted. That's the thing about friends for life. The love is unconditional. Which is why I did not whine about pushing through that mob of people to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. In fact I rather enjoyed it. And got close enough to take a photo.