Whatever our age, there is a cluster of people with certain names that are seldom repeated within other generations. For example, I am Carole, a name common to my generation, much less so to younger people, and rarely given to new babies now. As a result, we often find ourselves having friends with the same names. That does not mean those people are the same as each other. For example, take three of my friends named Judy, only one of which uses her given name, Judith. I’ll refer to them as Judy A, Judith B, and Judy C.
Judy A is my newest friend. We occasionally comment to each other that, at our age, it is uncommon to make new friends and we are greatly appreciating the fun of it. Technically, we’ve known each other for several years because of our membership in a local organization, the Beverly Democrats. Until a few months ago, when we were present at a fundraiser for a local politician, we had never actually had a conversation. In September, we happened to sit at the same table and started to chat. I have no idea what makes the difference between polite, somewhat dull exchanges and something else, apparently similar on the surface, but sparked with life and vitality, but that happened for us. It’s somewhat like the difference between dead and alive, perhaps not observable at a quick glance, but completely and distinctly different.
We quickly discovered that we each had an interest in writing, though hers had been lifelong and mine was relatively new, or, at least so I believed then. What fascinated me was that, clearly, we were each touched similarly during that first conversation, each recognizing the spark in it, the vibrancy. After monopolizing each other’s company for the better part of the evening, we finally set a time to meet for coffee in a local cafe two weeks later. Then we expanded our conversation, wondering aloud whether we would soon run out of topics. Neither of us thought so. We’ve continued to meet every couple of weeks, both absorbed by this new and growing friendship. The future remains uncertain, but fully inviting and growing.
Judith B has been a friend for several years, brought together by two completely unrelated activities. We each enjoy a dance class offered by a local senior center, called by its teacher, Dance for Joy. And it is! Not designed for perfect bodies or for an audience, it is simply moving to music in ways that stretch the body and lift the spirit. Additionally, Judith is a sister climate protester. The joy and spirit that she displays in dance class is present during protesting, as well, adding to the mutual joy that we experience together. There’s even a third component that connects us. Judith is a performing artist, a story-teller, which I often share by being in her audience. She not only uses her voice, but also her sass and creative costuming, to convey the essence of strong women and imminent climate disaster. Now, she doesn’t perform both subjects simultaneously, but on different occasions; however, they are her two preferred topics, as they are mine.
Judith B has just extended an invitation to me to participate with her in a skit next Wednesday, to display opposition to a proposed local power plant. I surprised myself by agreeing! In it, I’ll be portraying the ‘bad guy’ or actually, in this case, the ‘bad woman,’ an official who is in a position to interfere, but who has chosen not to. I’ll be standing behind a full size cut-out of this Climate Katie, and will recite her lines, in response to another cut-out. My friend, Judith B, will portray an average citizen, repeating, “You’re not listening to us!” So, my friendship with Judith B is gaining another dimension.
Judy C is last, but certainly not least. She is from a different time in my life, about forty years ago. Not long after college, I started a new job in Pennsylvania, in a hospital, as an ultrasound technician. Judy started only two weeks later, but somehow, always looked to me as the expert, whenever she was in doubt or had a question. We were both single then and quickly became good friends. I worked in that department for several years, then moved on to another business as a systems analyst. We remained friends, and, finally, I decided to move back to Massachusetts. We anticipated that we would visit back and forth after my move, and she took a planned vacation with her boyfriend immediately before my relocation.
The day after my move, I received a call from a mutual friend, who asked me to sit down. “Judy,” she said, “was killed in an accident on her way home, by a tractor-trailer that Jack-knifed, her boyfriend with her. I’m so sorry.”
I couldn’t believe it, couldn’t imagine that she was gone, that I would never see her again. My shock increased the next day when I took in my mail. There was a postcard from Judy, that began, “I can’t believe that you’re not here!”
Although it happened decades ago, in my mind I see the postcard as if it were in my hand right now, her handwriting distinctive. Other than my mother’s and my husband’s, there is no other handwriting that is so instantly recognizable to me. I will never forget it. Or, Judy C. That friendship is frozen in time, preserved forever.
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