Today I spoke with a friend I hadn't spoken with in years. We've kept in touch through things like facebook and email, but we don't speak or see one another with any regularity. We went to college together. She was part of the Honors college I was involved in. We knew each other fairly well by the end of 4 years, and I enjoyed her. Our lives have moved in different directions, but still we share a history. Our memories of those years are still part of who we are.
Life goes by with such speed, sometimes I don't feel like I've had time to catch my breath. It seems like it was 5 minutes ago when she and I spent significant time together. When she called, the first words out of her mouth were, "what does this time of year make you think of?" And I immediately knew the answer she was thinking of...pancakes.
Each December, our professor, who was also my mentor/mother/sister in college, would invite all of us over to her home. We would find her in her kitchen, in blue jeans and bare feet. She would be making us pancakes on a big griddle on the counter, adding in pecans or blueberries or chocolate chips. Once we all had a pancake, she would join us in her great room. We would be snuggled up with one another when she came in, and she would join for a time in our chatter. A bunch of college kids, enjoying each other and eating pancakes. After awhile, she would pick up a well-worn book. Sometimes it was Dr. Suess. Sometimes it was Shel Silverstein. After a few minutes, she would start reading to us. The room would fall quiet as we all soaked in the holiness of the moment. The divisions we ordinarily felt...politics, religion, the Greek system, whatever...fell away. We were children again, and our mother was reading to us, teaching us, loving us. It was my favorite night of each school year. I felt her warmth and the love of my friends so strongly on those nights.
I remember my first December experience at my teacher's home. Late into the night, when we began to file out to head back to our dorms, she stood by the front door and hugged each of us. As she held each of us in her arms, she would whisper a blessing of sorts. I still remember her smiling at me and telling me she how very happy she was that I was there. I recall watching the seniors in our group become teary-eyed as they realized they were receiving their final blessing from our beloved professor. A few years later, I remember being one of those seniors, wiping my own tears away as I left her home.
As my friend and I caught up on our lives and how they look and feel these days, she asked me if I missed those nights. I answered her with a resounding yes, but for different reasons than even I understand. Those days, and that age of my life, were filled with so much promise. I felt pregnant with hope and possibility. I was just discovering who I was. My life seemed rich and full and textured. There was a part of me that felt strongly that I could change the world. That my life would mean something, that all I was learning and seeing and believing would lead me right into the next stage of my life, and I welcomed that. Those experiences at my professor's home were at least partially about love and relationships for me. The conversations, the pancakes, the affection was so vital to my survival during those times. Those times have sustained me, even to this day. More than perhaps at any other time in my life, I realize now how important loving relationships really are.
I'm certain if someone had asked me at 21 what I thought my life would like at 35, I would have answered very differently than how life actually turned out for me. But still, here I am. And life is rich and full and textured. The past year has made me see, and believe, that there is still so much to come. As I caught up with my friend I couldn't help but laugh and smile (and cry just a little) at our common history and our common story now. Two girls who have grown up, but who are somehow still pregnant with hope for the future. My vision now is different, for sure, but it is still one full of so much promise.
As I settled in to read to my children tonight, I see so clearly how my life and development have come full circle. I'm so thankful for the old relationships that have nurtured me and formed (and perhaps even transformed) me, but today I'm just as thankful for the new relationships that are defining me in the here and now. And I still find myself as hopeful at 35 as I was at 19; hopeful that love never fails and hopeful that the future is still full of the possibilities and opportunities I first glimpsed all those years ago, when I was sitting on the floor in that warm house, surrounded by so much love and pancakes. My relationships look different and feel different today, but still they are what supports me and nourishes me from the inside out, and make me convinced that I still can change the world.