Friday, September 26, 2014

Oh I get by with a little help from my friends. Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends.

 I received a message on Facebook from an old friend named Michael VanNort two days ago. We met in junior high school and he was the trendy-haired soccer player who was connected with all the right people (he knew everyone and was instantly their friend). I quickly grew to admire him and because of our friendship groups, we eventually became friends, too. Mike was a natural leader - totally cool for him - and very much dedicated with an amazing passion for living the extraordinary life (I vaguely remember his drive to recreate the livelihood of the show Thirty Something that was popular at the time - shoot, we're past that by a decade).  "Nort" was picking up furniture near my home in Stratford and stopped in Fairfield for dinner at Oceanna (where he is pictured here). It was two minutes from my office at the University.

The last time I saw Mike was at my house in North Syracuse when we had our 20th reunion (I was a doctoral student making $12,000 a year, but somehow could afford a house!). I didn't have much time to catch up with him then, however, or over the many years since we graduated. After we left Cicero North-Syracuse, though, we both attended Binghamton University. He chose to be a residential assistant and I opted for the hippie life off campus. Still, I continued the admiration for his incredible integrity. I've always been a tremendous fan.

Mike currently owns MVN Design in NYC - a self-started business that has resulted from his years of professional experiences. In a month he will run the NYC marathon and meet another of his lifetime goals. I love that he keeps his bucket list alive and well!

Throughout the years, I've only kept up with Mike's achievements, marriage, and business endeavors through other friends. That is why it was so wonderful to see him again last night, face to face, in Connecticut.

When we were in high school, our moms bonded. He and I shared various responsibilities on school spirit initiatives and Class of 1990 shenanigans. One huge memory I have (it's not dancing to the Safety Dance in my foyer as he reminisced last night) is after we graduated and were leaving Todd Teeter's graduation party. For some reason, I was carpooling him and Lan Nguyen in my Nissan Sentra. We were leaving Teeter's house on Oneida Lake and it was dark out. A ll of us were singing to the radio and full of the infinite spirit (a credit Perks of Being a Wallflower) of the age - we were too alive at the moment to realize how alive we actually were. I realized the road we were on had a quick turn and I was going way too fast. I slammed my breaks and we skidded. We skidded hard. In fact, we stopped right before slamming into trees and were, thankfully, okay.

That memory may have bypassed Lan and Mike at the time, but for me it was a huge event. I knew Mike was going to be an amazing human being in his future and Lan, man, Lan was one of the most beautiful girls in our class. She was heading to great things, as well.  Had I lost control of the car that night it could have been more tragic. I felt the responsibility that I was carrying precious cargo, because I was. I managed to stop the car and shifted it back onto the road, but in my head I remembered that I was carrying wonderful people who needed to get out into the world to do wonderful things.

24 years later, seeing Lan with her beautiful family in Florida, and Mike happily married to his partner in the Big Apple, I am especially thankful that everything turned out okay that night.

Meeting up with an old friend after so many years is a monumental experience. In one hour over Mediterranean food it was hard to know where to begin. How do friends who have shared 24 years of life together catch up with one another, especially when they have had each others back through it all, despite the fact that they have rarely had time to talk with each other along the journey?

Simple. It's kept unconditionally simple. We just know that one another is on a path as it has always been meant to be.

It's the Great Whatever and I'm thankful for that.

But now I am having flashbacks to CNS drama, trips to say "what's up" at Wegmans where he worked, a road trip with Marybeth DiPasqua to see John Mellencamp in Albany that never happened, the arguments between him and Weston, the bond between him and Boomwa, and the irreplaceable connection he has always had with Twippy and Karen Hite. Amazing how, after all these years, we still touch souls. This is everything.

42 years old. Grayer. More mature. Much changed, yet so little.

A night like this is hard to explain in words. I am nostalgic, curious, thankful, appreciative, and still wondering about how it all comes together like this.

And as I left I sang the Beatles, the theme song of The Wonder Years, all the way home.
yes, I get by with a little help from my friends.

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