"Make new friends, but keep the old…"

January 11, 2010

“…one is silver and the other gold.”

As I looked around during our party, at everything I am leaving, I remembered that old Scouting song and it was hard to even fathom why I have to go. But go I must.

When our law school gang–Gilda, Claudia, Woody– Michael and I were all on the dance floor together, the years faded away and we were those 20-something kids again, not yet quite grown up, our lives and careers somewhere in the distance. The crazy nights of beer and cheap wine, dancing, playing pool and cards. And then, so many decades later, Judge Claudia remarrying us in her chambers. What a circuitous route life can take.

The posse–Joanne, Helen, Sheila, Shelley–the women who are my sisters in the truest sense of the word, who’ve been my lifeblood here and whom I love so dearly. It’s agonizing to leave them. Our coffees, breakfasts, dog play dates, the old book club–they filled my life with joy, laughter and love.

We’ll still do those things, just less often and in other cities.

And it’s begun! I was thrilled this morning to get a surprise email that Joanne and her husband will be in San Francisco next month with time to play. Sheila and I already have a reservation to be waited on hand and foot at a spa in Utah in April. Helen and I will definitely find a way to play somewhere this year, maybe even at her North Carolina home, and I am hoping to talk Shelley and her gorgeous husband into a visit.

My college chums from way back at FSU–Mary, who came from Missouri to celebrate (we hadn’t seen each other since her wedding 32 years ago!) and Jack, who lives on the road between New Smyrna Beach and his ad agency in Dallas–we were the smarmy over-achievers in undergrad school who would team on group projects and always ace them. (The picture is the Williams Bldg, at FSU, scene of many of our crimes.)

How hard I laughed when Jack teased, “Yeah, Carol, you were always the brains of the operation, I was the eager beaver and Mary was the cute little sorority girl…” Not how I remember it at all!

Seeing my former work colleagues, young and older, some living in other cities, together again was a warm and wonderful feeling. Loved being on the dance floor with Jeff, who hired me in Tampa, who became a dear friend as well as a colleague…laughing and talking about how much we miss one another. (While I did work at home from California a lot of the time, and sometimes worked in my jammies when crises got hectic, I can’t say that I ever spent much time working in a towel)

And a mutual friend, Bob, a lovely and loving friend who travels in very tall cotton but is grounded, always, and has a sense of humor about it all–the yachts, mansions, parties, socialites. He has such great stories, if I can’t talk him into cowriting his memoir, I’ve lost my touch.

And some of my former clients who are now dear friends…Michelle and Michelle (and their husbands, whom I’ve also known for years) …we fought some wars together in the process of building almost a billion dollars worth of water infrastructure projects over a decade, and those battlefield bonds morphed into true friendships that I know will endure. (Pictured is our seawater desalination plant, the first big plant of its kind in the nation and a real accomplishment, which as a pioneering project, came with its share of technical, public and political problems. But those took nothing away from the accomplishment.)

My former client, Joyce, who has a huge heart, a creative brain, is a brave breast cancer survivor and a total knockout to boot–I admire her and treasure the friendship we forged after our work relationship. The term hero is overused, but not in this case: she’s incredibly resilient and frankly, one of my few heroes.

Strong bonds are forged in the fire of shared experiences, mutual understanding, love and a lot of laughter. Strong bonds come from hours working together, playing together, having good times and bad. They come from being there for one another, no matter what. From always seeking to understand.

Friends are the family we choose for ourselves, and when I looked around, I was overwhelmed and happy to see that, in my Florida life, I chose well.

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