My best friend Karen’s birthday is today.
I’ve written about Karen in many other posts, but I want to extol her virtues again today. (Because, after all, what’s the point of having a blog if you can’t gush about your friends periodically?)
We met my junior year in high school when we shared an AP history class with Mr. Doyle. We had friends (or at least friends of friends) in common. I don’t actually remember when we transitioned from knowing each other to being friends, but it happened sometime that year before we started studying for the AP exam together (it may have been the study sessions that cemented the friendship, though).
Karen was my lifeline through the second half of high school. Things felt very tumultuous in my life and she was always there to provide moral support, a wry comment, or a friendly voice late at night.
Somehow she seemed to know that I just needed to know she was there. One night we played word association games over the phone, getting stranger and stranger as the night went on.
Always up for a challenge, together we have tried on scary gold lamé dresses at Filene’s, played piano at Steinway in Boston, and driven, lost and off-roading, through the hills of the Housatonic Valley. We’ve seen Erin McKeown play in a New Haven living room, Mary Chapin Carpenter play in Madison Square Garden, and Sting play at the Meadows.
When I’m feeling sad or depressed or down, there’s no one else who will do. Rudi’s even learned to ask if I’ve spoken to Karen recently when he can’t figure out how to cheer me up. He knows that no matter how blue I am when I begin a phone call with her, I’ll be in much better spirits later on.
In addition to playing the piano beautifully, Karen also is remarkably clever and creative. In college, her letters were the envy of all my friends because they were so colorful and full of stickers and quotes and facts. One letter, in particular, she wrote in a variety of codes that I had to solve before I could find out what her latest news was. Unfortunately, that was a day I stopped by the post office before my environmental studies class, so I’m not sure I learned a whole lot from Professor Niering that day. She now employs her ingenuity for a company that creates and sells word puzzle books.
We have one of those friendships that transcend time and place. We can go weeks without talking and pick up as if it had been yesterday. Our visits last late into the night. But I never am ready for visits to end and I wish now that we could still talk every day like we did back in high school. Some people never find a person who understands them and who feels comfortable telling them when they’re being unpleasant (finding people who think those things but don’t care enough to tell you is much more common). And I’ve had that person in my life for a full half of it now. How tremendously blessed and lucky I am…
I’m not home to call her and wish her a merry day and happy wishes and a fortuitous future. So I will ask anyone reading to do so for me in the comments. (Kare, if no one leaves you a message, it will simply indiate that all my other readers are in England…)
So, Kare, have a happy, happy, happy birthday. May it bring you blue skies, cheerful animals (at appropriate hours), and great joy over the year to come.