Part one is here
When I was eight, my family moved back into the house in Rhode Island we'd owned since before I was born. We'd been in living in Venezuela for three years, which is a story for another time, and we slowly picked up the rhythms of a life that was not completely unfamiliar, since, being friendly with the family that was renting our house, we'd visited every summer and played with our friend Jennifer Lambdon*, who lived across the street.
*name changed to protect the family's privacy
Jenny was exactly in between my sister, Lib, and myself in age but since she and Libby were in the same class at school they quickly became better friends than she and I were. Left out, I started to follow her older sister, Ann Marie, around. Three years older than me, Ann was the epitome of older-kid coolness. For some reason, something about my dorky nine-year-old self appealed to her and we became fast friends. We argued and fought like sisters, frequently- when our younger sisters were fighting- being angry at each other on principle alone.
Often all four of us would play together and those halcyon days- playing elaborate imaginary games indoors, riding our bikes and climbing trees in the summer, sledding and making snow sculptures in the winter- make up some of my best memories. There were many nights when the four of us would sleep over at one house, or swap houses, with Jen staying at my house with Libby, and Ann Marie and I having a sleep-over at her house. Our parents had quickly became close friends as well and spent hours
eating dessert studying the Bible at the Lambdon's house while I relished the chance to stay up late and watch The Man From U.N.C.L.E. reruns after my brother and sisters went to bed.
As we grew older Ann and I grew apart. Or rather, she grew up and I, being on the slow 'n steady plan for life (you know, like the tortoise), was left behind. Ann was starting high school and starting to think about dances (what-ever), and boys (gross!) and I was still happily climbing trees and not-washing-my-hair (I never did outgrow the former activity, but do I wash my hair on a regular basis these days). Teenaged concerns were so boring and I became frustrated with Ann, as I'm sure she did with me. We continued to be part of each other's lives, since our families were so intertwined, but there was a gulf between us that was unbridgeable until years had passed and I had grown up a bit.
Back on common ground, we renewed our friendship, but saw each other less often as Ann married and moved to another state and I tried to figure out how to navigate the waters of adulthood. The bond was still there though, and when we were together the years fell away and we were bff's again. Over the years, our families had grown inseparable and there were frequent Lambdon/Davenport get-togethers. Summer cookouts, Christmas eve dinners, weddings, and baby showers bound us all together more and more tightly as the years passed. I remember the excitement of Ann's wedding to Rip, and how happy she was; the announcement that she was pregnant with their first child; my sister Lib, and Jen, friends since first grade, having their first babies only a few months apart. The faith the two families shared was the rock to which our ties- closer than family's in some ways- were anchored.
The last time I saw Ann Marie was exactly three years ago. I was moving to California and she and her family came to a cookout/pool party in my parents' backyard. She had four kids by then, three beautiful boys and an adorable little girl, all fair-haired with their mother's blue eyes. The youngest, Aiden, was barely walking. After I moved away, Ann and Rip, her parents, and eventually one of her older brothers, all moved to Pennsylvania where Jen and her husband Doug had settled. My family was sad to see them leave New England, but the bonds held strong as my parents bought a retirement home in South Carolina and frequently detoured on trips there to visit the Lambdon's in Lancaster, and my sister and Jen made regular visits to each other- their little boys quickly becoming the best of friends. Ann Marie and I weren't in direct contact, but we were kept abreast of each others' lives by our mothers and sisters, and I always held out the hope that maybe, someday, I would be able to squeeze a trip to Pennsylvania into one of my visits back east. This week I am going to Lancaster. I am going to see the entire Lambdon family, something that hasn't happened in years.
And in a cruel twist of fate, I can only hope that when I wake up tomorrow morning the whole thing will have been a bad dream, and my inbox will be empty of travel emails. I would give anything to untake this trip, to undo the reason I am making it...