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Scrabbling around in my bedside table drawer, I found this card. This wish. It made my throat clench up to read it, in the weird way that wanting to cry and not giving into it rewards us with a bit more pain. A bit more reason to cry, actually.

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Sarah has been my friend since our freshman year of high school. I don’t know how our friendship began exactly but I do remember being resistant to the idea of it. Sarah is the cousin of girl I’d made friends with in 8th grade–my first year in Guttenberg (my family had moved there from Fort Wayne, Ind., when my father got a call to be pastor of a dual-parish in Northeast Iowa)–and the idea of adding a family member of a friend to a friend group seemed to me like a completely awful idea, a recipe for dull conversations and the need for a lot of covert eye-rolling. Sarah was coming over to the public high school after having attended the town Catholic school for elementary and junior high, so she was new. I was barely not-new. I don’t know where my elitist views regarding who should or should not be welcomed as a friend came from–perhaps I was afraid of upsetting the delicate balance that is the female social group. I’d just gotten in; I didn’t want that to be messed with.

Now, though, I think there was something in our co-outsider-ship that made Sarah and I good candidates for a long-term friendship–that, and our shared love of music, books, sarcasm and wordplay (I have to stop myself from saying things like, “I’ll phrone you” or “I don’t give a flying foffala” in my current day-to-day).

Sarah sent me this card last year, I believe for my birthday. At that point, it’d been 7 years since we’d seen each other, the last time having been in 2006 when she was one of the women to stand up with me at my wedding.

It took me until this year–just a couple weeks ago, in fact–but I made it to Minnesota for a visit. These reunions with the people of our pasts and our presents are strange things–I am both returning myself and proffering a new self. I wondered how easy it would be to return to something like this friendship.

Turns out, Sarah and Jackie are still Sarah and Jackie. There are differences, of course. We’re both married now. I have kids. We both have grown-up jobs and grown-up concerns. And Sarah reminded me of other changes: “I like that you swear now.”

(Less need to say “flying foffala,” amirite?)

Perhaps it is because of who we were and how we became friends that we remain so easily able to stay friends. Able not to disappoint the memory of High School Jackie and High School Sarah and that friendship, and yet connect in the now. I want to partly credit the oft-vexing small town for its role in binding us together–when you live in a place with fewer than 3,000 people and you find someone that you like, you hang on to them.

17 years of sticking. Thanks, Sarah, for your wish.

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This post is part of Think Kit by Smallbox. Think Kit Day 17: Time to go through your (actual) desktop, junk drawer, or coat pockets and share an artifact from your past. A half-torn ticket stub, once-washed receipt, coffee-stained map, anything in a frame: it’s all fair game. What springs to mind from your artifact? The smells, sights, and sounds? A specific feeling? Hold it in your hand, close your eyes, and go back in time to a moment.

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