My heart raced with a mixture of nerves and excitement as I entered the bustling New York City restaurant during lunchtime. I had last seen Roberta at my wedding 30 years ago. We had connected six months ago via LinkedIn, but as I navigated my way to the hostess stand, I wondered what had possessed me to initiate this meet-up while visiting my daughter in New York?
Before I could begin to answer this question, a perky voice in the crowd called out, “Barbara, you haven’t changed.” Roberta certainly hadn’t — she did not look 30 years older, still talked excitedly and retained the put together, cosmopolitan look I always envied.
There was so much to talk about. How does one even begin to sum up 30 years in a 90-minute lunch? We began by catching each other up on the parents we had lost, husbands we had matured with, children we had launched and iterations of the career paths taken.
The conversation then shifted and we began to reminisce. There were the times we lacked practicality, “Remember Sue getting us all hyped up about Skydiving and the winter we took that night skiing course where the whole mountain was a sheet of ice,” said Roberta. “How about when we convinced Kathy’s parents that we knew how to take care of her after her car accident so that she would not miss Senior Week even though we had no idea what to do,” I said. Those were the years that we took risks, were insecure and excited and scared about what the future had in store for us.
After mentioning that I had seen the Carole King Broadway Show, Beautiful, the night before with my daughter, Roberta asked, “Barbara did you cry when she sang It’s Too Late Baby? I remember us sobbing through it every time we dealt with a failed romance. You playedTapestry all the time, I think you knew all the words to every song on the album by heart!”
With that, I transformed back to my tiny dorm bed, both of us lying face up belting out the words as tears tumbled down at least one of our faces. “Oh Roberta, I cried throughout the show. My daughter looked at me with a mixture of pity, embarrassment and confusion as I simultaneously sobbed and mouthed every word of every song”, I confessed. With that, my reason for reaching out to Roberta became clear: she knew Me before I was We. To this day, she still only knows Me as Me. Me before I was We -someone’s wife, someone’s mother. Me before I was defined by my family and the roles I play in their lives.
There was still one lingering question: Why now? Why did I have this need to reconnect at this time? I had made numerous trips to New York over the years and had never before felt a strong need to reconnect with old friends I had lost touch with. I continued to ponder this, and here, here is what I think, this is why I need to reconnect now: During the years that I was raising my family it took all of my energy and attention to be there for all the people and responsibilities in my day to day life. I lacked the space in my brain and the energy to think of anything beyond the scope of my very full present world. These days, my life and future is less defined. My possibilities are endless. I have time to think about what I need and want. I have more time to just be ME.
My lunch with Roberta flew by, and before we knew it, she had to get back to her office. We promised to keep in touch and even talked about going to a concert together. Do you think the The Rolling Stones will do another comeback tour?
How about you? What memories, passions, dreams and experiences would you like to reconnect with from the time that You were just You?