Same Difference

"It's surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time."
-- Barbara Kingsolver

My friend Caroline came to stay the week before I left to go back to London. When I talk about Caroline—or at least when I talk about her in my head—I describe her as the Rayanne Graff to my Angela Chase. "My wild friend Caroline," I call her, as though those of us in our thirties with mortgages are still capable of being wild. Man, you should have seen her then, though. Everything vaguely naughty I ever did, I did with her. 

*****

Sean and I pick her up from the airport after work and drive the long way home, past the beach. A small part of me has been wondering if the next few days are going to be awkward; we've only seen each other three times in the last fourteen years, and people change. The sunset is unusually pretty and I point it out. She takes a dutiful picture from the backseat.

*****

Everything is off at first. Pulling up in front of the house, my swelling sense of pride is squashed by the dog turd sitting squarely on the front path I scrubbed the day before. I've filled the fridge with wine, but she barely drinks. The steaks I've bought to cook outside stay wrapped in plastic when it's discovered we've run out of propane for the grill. 

Instead, I make risotto. We've got mushrooms, we've got rice, and I've got twenty minutes to stand in front of the stove and stir. Caroline pads upstairs in pajamas, hair wet from her shower, and sits with me in the kitchen. At one point while we're chatting, I put down the spoon to show her something. She picks it up and stirs, not missing a beat.   

****

Here is the thing about people you've known forever: you don't forget how to be with them. It's marvelous as a magic trick, but the jokes that were funny then are funny still. One of you starts with half a memory and the other recalls the rest of it. You tumble backwards through the past, stripping the years of their stories, grabbing greedily at them as you plummet further. Oh, remember that time when—? 

Yes! Yes, I remember. 

****

At school, we were always different: her the faithfully fearless one and me just trying it on for size. I thought we might have evened out over the years, but I never got much better at breaking the rules. 

Her stories still start with things like "Wait, didn't I tell you about the time I got deported from Russia?" and I shake my head, feeling tame and dull. Oh, my sensible couch. My sensible jeans. 

"Well," she says, "turns out that I'm never allowed back in the country. You won't believe what happened." 

Still my wild friend Caroline, I guess. 

*****

She leaves on a Friday evening and we wait in front of the house for a taxi that takes an hour to come. "It's been great having you here," I say. "Just like old times." 

"It's funny," she says. "For being such different people, we're really similar."  

"I know," I reply. "Why is that, do you think?" 

"Because we grew up together," she says simply, and the taxi rounds the corner onto my street. 

Filed Under:
1
Jessica
Jun 07, 2012

More than any other blog I follow, I love your voice the best. Well done.

2
Tammi
Jun 07, 2012

Awww

3
Tammi
Jun 07, 2012

Awww

4
Lindsey
Jun 07, 2012

A million times yes, and then just for good measure. . . yes.

5
Danielle
Jun 07, 2012

It's so nice to have old friends like that.

6
D
Jun 07, 2012

I absolutely love that!
"It's funny," she says. "For being such different people, we're really similar."

"I know," I reply. "Why is that, do you think?"

"Because we grew up together," she says simply

it sums so many things up perfectly...things I have never taken the time to put into words.

7
Sarah Brown
Jun 07, 2012

This is lovely. Holly, write a book please.

8
A'Dell
Jun 07, 2012

I love everything about this. I have a Caroline, too, and it's always just like this.

9
Jaime
Jun 07, 2012

Beautifully said.

I've never met anyone I'm as comfortable around as the friends I grew up with. They just know me, as I know them. No one else comes close.

Makes me sad I don't see them as much as I'd like.

10
Ashley
Jun 07, 2012

I'm trying really hard right now to keep my shit together in my cubical. This was lovely.

11
Julie
Jun 07, 2012

Yes. I have two friends, from college, of that same variety. No matter how much time has lapsed, or the changes in our individual lives, we immediately fit back together when we are together again.

12
kellilu
Jun 07, 2012

Beautifully written. You made me remember one of my friends from growing up, and we're just as you described.

13
KateMc
Jun 07, 2012

There is something really special about the people you grew up with. They just know you in a way that no one else can. I guess that's true of many relationships (husbands and wives know each other in a way no one else can, after all), but the people who knew you as you grew up are just special somehow, set apart.

I'm about to take a trip back home, and I'm planning to see people I haven't seen since we were teenagers. I can't wait. I hope it's as lovely as your time with Caroline.

14

This is so true. It also makes me miss my friends.

15
jen
Jun 07, 2012

this is exactly how i feel about my best friends. we grew up together and though we haven't lived in the same place in 15 years, when we get together it's as if no time has gone by at all. i love that feeling.

it's also why no matter how much my siblings sometimes drive me crazy, i will always fiercely love them and cherish our visits.

16
chrystal
Jun 07, 2012

simple lovely
and I completely agree with Jessica (commenter #1)

17
MomQueenBee
Jun 07, 2012

With certain friends no matter how many years you've been apart the first conversation begins "As I was saying..." and continuity resumes. I'm so glad you and Caroline have each other.

18
Amy
Jun 07, 2012

This made me cry and promptly check in with my childhood best friends so we can be all together again soon.

19
Maggie
Jun 07, 2012

What Jessica and Sarah Brown said...!

20
Meghan
Jun 07, 2012

Just love this.

21
Jo
Jun 08, 2012

Beautifully written, as always. Totally rings true too :)

22
A
Jun 08, 2012

I wish you had a 'Like' button...

23
Marcheline
Jun 08, 2012

I read a novel last night. Okay, so it was a short novel. But, like this post, it really captured the feel of how people relate. You might like it - it's called "Delicacy: A Novel" by David Foenkinos. And no, I have no idea how to pronounce his last name.

I'm the "Caroline", and my best friend since childhood is the quiet one. I'm tall, she's short. My hair was long and straight, hers a short mop of tight curls. And yet.

Great post.

24
Anna Louisa
Jun 08, 2012

Beautiful. You're such a talented writer!

www.anna-bird.com

25
Liz
Jun 08, 2012

This made me tear up. I have several friends like this, two of whom I haven't seen in about two years, and hope to see next month. I can't wait. I think it will be just like this. Makes me want to put a little emoticon heart right here.

26
Suebob
Jun 08, 2012

Dang it, you are such a good writer. Well done.

27
Kelli
Jun 08, 2012

Holly, this is lovely. I particularly enjoyed this part:
"Here is the thing about people you've known forever: you don't forget how to be with them. It's marvelous as a magic trick, but the jokes that were funny then are funny still. One of you starts with half a memory and the other recalls the rest of it. You tumble backwards through the past, stripping the years of their stories, grabbing greedily at them as you plummet further. Oh, remember that time when—?

Yes! Yes, I remember."

I think about that a lot with my brother, actually. He is the strongest link to my past...and you captured what I've always known about siblings and old friends. Thank you for sharing.

28
Lauren
Jun 08, 2012

Your writing and this post are simply beautiful. Sincerely.

29
calamity jane
Jun 08, 2012

LOVE that barbara kingsolver quote so much. almost as much as i love your references to angela chase! awesome.

oh, also? i'm totally jealous of your living room! :)

30
Juliann
Jun 08, 2012

I've just returned from visiting my close college friend who I hadn't seen in five years. While our lives have taken different paths, there are still so many similarities. You captured that feeling perfectly.

31
Emily
Jun 08, 2012

I just visited with my 2 best friends from high school and we are so different. But yes, we grew up together. And I guess that is what binds us together still. Great post.

32
Amy
Jun 08, 2012

Please write a book, already!

I'm all sighing and misty and happy at the same time right now.

33
Sarah
Jun 08, 2012

What a lovely piece of writing! You've done a beautiful job of putting a very familiar feeling into words.

34
Kate
Jun 08, 2012

I have a friend like that; we won't see or speak or email for a year and when we meet again its wonderfully comfortable.

35
Angella
Jun 09, 2012

Beautiful.

I have a friend like that. Krystal. :)

36
operation pink herring
Jun 09, 2012

I feel the same about my two best friends. We don't even talk that much, but when we are together it's like we see each other every day. It's the great tragedy of my life that we don't live near each other.

37
Trixie
Jun 10, 2012

Love this. You captured the feelings I had this past March when I travelled for the first time in 26? 27? years with my best friend from grade school. But it was a perfect trip and grounded me in a way only she can. Because we grew up together.

38
Annika
Jun 11, 2012

I am with Jessica. You have a great way of writing!
Thanks for sharing!

39
Annika
Jun 11, 2012

I am with Jessica. You have a great way of writing!
Thanks for sharing!

40
Amy
Jun 11, 2012

Seriously, enough already...write a book. I'm pre-ordering it now.

41
sensibly sassy
Jun 11, 2012

"Here is the thing about people you've known forever: you don't forget how to be with them. It's marvelous as a magic trick, but the jokes that were funny then are funny still. One of you starts with half a memory and the other recalls the rest of it. You tumble backwards through the past, stripping the years of their stories, grabbing greedily at them as you plummet further. Oh, remember that time when—?

Yes! Yes, I remember. "

This is just an example of why I so love your writing...please write a book-soon!

42
Sheila
Jun 12, 2012

I loved this, every word. My Caroline is named Becky. She is called Rebecca by the people who've only known her in a grown-up way, but she'll always be Becky-Beck to me. As it should be.

43
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44
Cami
May 19, 2016

Inrmtoafion is power and now I'm a !@#$ing dictator.

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