A few months ago, I was moderating my posts. (Thank you, blog stalker, for making this necessary!)
And I came upon this one:
Dear Maria, I stumbled across your blog, and the more I read, the more I wonder if you are the same Maria Lastname who I went to grade school with. My name is Millie Blank and if you are the same Maria, we used to be great pals from first to fifth grade. Then, my sister died and my parents ended up divorced and my brothers and I moved to Minnesota with my mother right before sixth grade and I never saw you again. I don't suppose you went to St. Agnes Elementary in Smalltown, Iowa? If so, here is my e-mail address ( .) I would LOVE to hear from you. If not, well...you have a great blog anyway. Sincerely, Millie Lastname.
I sat there gaping. OF COURSE, I remembered her. Millie. She and I bonded over C.S Lewis. We were huge Narnia fans when every other kid in our class was reading The Little House series. We liked them too, but not like we liked Narnia. I remembered a pudgy girl with dark brown hair and eyes. She was smart and funny. We would meet each day on the playground to discuss Narnia. We went on to The Hobbit when we were finished. I remembered that she had a sister who was one year older who died of leukemia about the same time that my Da died of a heart attack. By the time I went on to sixth grade, Millie was gone. Her parents had divorced, it was said, her sister's death being too hard on the marriage. She and her brothers had moved with their mother to Minnesota and her father had moved to Wisconsin.
And now, well...she had found me. I e-mailed her back quickly to say that YES, I was Maria Lastname and to please write me as soon as possible. I wanted to know everything that had happened to her in the past um...40 years.
She did. We fired e-mails back and forth for several weeks. I found out that she had married young, had a daughter in med school in MY city and had been married to the same man, an international banker now, for thirty years. She worked at a book store and didn't have a blog, but loved mine.
We exchanged phone numbers and began calling with regularity. At first, we were both shy and reserved upon talking but little by little, we loosened up. I found out that she and her husband did not own a television. She found out that I sort of liked Survivor and The Amazing Race, that no, I didn't just watch PBS.
And then she shocked me. She sent me an e-mail asking me if I had heard of a certain book. "I wrote it," she wrote to me. "And I am nearly done with my next book. It is due at the publisher's in mid July."
I had not only read the book she named, I had LOVED the book. I had read it as a library book, though, did not own it. So, I went to the bookstore and immediately picked it up. She had used her married name, so I hadn't caught that she wrote it. I looked at the author's description and there was a photo of a slender woman with dark brown hair and eyes, sitting on a bench. It was my Millie. My god, not only an author, but a GOOD one. The blurb simply said that she lived with her husband and daughter in Minnesota.
I sent a gushy e-mail telling her that, yes, I had read this book and I wasn't just sucking up, I had loved it.
I then told her that while I hadn't written a book, I had been lucky enough to get a few articles published in medical and science journals and I sent her the names of the journals and the titles. She responded in a hilarious e-mail saying that she liked me so much, but that it was really, really hard for her to get into an article about oxidative stress in autism spectrum disorders or fluoxetine and it's reliability in cellular and molecular defects in the autistic brain...
I asked her if she made a lot of money on her book. I mean, it was wonderful. She told me that she still worked at the bookstore, that unless you were Stephenie Meyer or Stephen King, it was really hard to make a living as a writer. She asked me how much I was paid for my articles and I burst out laughing as I told her that I made more money doing tarot cards at all those parties in college.
And then she said that she was planning on visiting her daughter in med school and what did I think about meeting for coffee? I was game, but since my rheumatoid arthritis was acting up, I would be the woman limping in the door with a cane. But...hey, I'd tie a pink ribbon around it so she would know WHICH old lame woman I was...
We met at a coffee house the following weekend. She says that I started crying first; I say that she did. We both did. Cry.
All I know is that when I came limping in, leaning heavily on my cane, I saw this woman sitting alone at a table, a lovely, very slender woman with black hair in a shiny bob dressed in jeans and a man's blue cotton shirt, tail out. She looked about ten years younger than I did.
She stood up and peered at me through horn rimmed glasses. "Maria?" she asked. I nodded and then we were hugging and crying.
"Only you could make limping with a cane look like high fashion," she said. "God, you didn't tell me you had perfect milkmaid skin. I feel like your freakin' mother..."
No, I told her. I look like yours....
We went on for awhile, making exaggerated comments on how beautiful the other one was, but eventually we settled in the booth and ordered some very overpriced coffee and agreed to split a danish.
We talked. And talked. And talked. For three hours.
All during our conversation, we kept saying things like, "I can't believe I am telling another person this" or "I've never told anyone THAT."
We talked about our lives so far:
Millie: I was hugely fat all through high school. When I got into college, I spent my freshman year losing over 60 pounds. By my sophomore year, I was skinny. I met Mitch and fell in love. When I took him home for Christmas to meet my mother, wouldn't you know she drug out ALL of my baby books and photo albums of my fat self. There I was looking like a stuffed sausage in my prom dress. I didn't even have a date for prom, I went stag. I was terrified that Mitch would break up with me. I knew he wanted a big family and I was worried that he'd look at me and see the fat gene just waiting to bite into his future children...but no, he DID say something about me dropping a ton or some insensitive thing, but he wasn't scared off. When he asked me to marry him my junior year, I jumped at it. He was not only the only boy I had slept with, he was the only boy I had ever dated, Maria! I wanted to grab him before he changed his mind...and then we had Lea when I was barely 25...so wow...I didn't get much of chance to even know what it was I wanted in a man...
Maria: While you were getting married, I was exploring the whole rainbow of sex. When I wasn't partying, I was studying. I managed to get on the dean's list every year AND learn how to handle a bong like a pro...When you were having Lea and being a mom, I was on a career track heavy duty. I had just been disinherited by my mother when I was 25. If I had been a mom, I would have been a very bad one at 25. To say I was not ready would be an understatement..."
Millie: Our best years were when Lea was a baby, when we were dirt poor. Mitch was a bank manager then, not jetting all over the world as an international banker like he does now and I was working for peanuts at the same bookstore I work in now. I used to bring Lea with me to work and set up her playpen in the back of the store. Customers loved her. Now, Lea is in med school and Mitch is never home. I miss those days when we had campbell's soup for dinner and maybe some crackers with peanut butter...Mitch and I both wanted a big family, but after Lea was born, I was never able to conceive again naturally and Mitch freaked out about artificial help....
Me: By the time I was thirty, I was making more money than I knew what to do with, I broke up with my girlfriend and she was almost successful at killing herself. I was working with AIDS patients and would come home and get shit faced drunk nearly every night. All by myself. In my expensive condo.
Millie: Suddenly, I was forty two and Lea was graduating from high school!
Me: Suddenly, I was forty and I realized that I was ready to have a baby. Except now I had really crappy eggs. It was a miracle when Liv was born, it honestly was. And I knew that I had to clean up my act. It is funny, but I never really was myself until I had Liv. It is like she brought out the real me. I look at myself now and can hardly believe that was me before. It was like I went from being Courtney Love to this upstanding...mother. A person who didn't smoke joints anymore or drink too much. I threw out the fishnet stockings too. I have become...so.....settled and predictable. And now, I even have this incredibly stable marriage. I go to PTA meetings and pick up kids for play dates. And what is weird is that I LIKE it. I like this person better than the one I was...
Millie: So, what is sex like with a woman? Do you mind me asking?
Me: It is good. But then, I am bi-sexual. I don't think you would find it nearly as exciting...What is it like to be married to the same man for thirty years?
Millie: It is...boring sometimes. But, also comforting. Not that I see him that much. He travels a LOT....
And here we were. Two women all grown up and settled into careers and marriages. We each have a daughter, although hers is 25 and mine is 8...
I was wearing a wrist brace when we sat down and after awhile, it began annoying me, so I slipped it off. We talked some more and then I realized that Millie was massaging my wrist gently.
"It looks like it hurts...," she told me sweetly.
I admitted that it did. And her gesture was so...so...Millie. Even as a child, she was sweet and sympathetic, always the kid on the playground who helped other kids get to the nurse's office when they fell down.
I allowed her to massage my wrist. This says a lot since in general, I do not allow much of that sort of caretaking. It felt...good. A friend reaching out to a friend.
We talked a bit more and then of course, one of us looked at our watch and exclaimed at the time. Millie needed to go have dinner with her daughter and I needed to pick up Liv at her friend's house.
We agreed that the next time Millie was in town, she would stay with me. She admitted that she had booked a hotel instead of asking to stay with me just in case we hadn't hit it off. I confessed that I hadn't invited her to stay with me for the same reason.
And now we wondered how we had gone for forty years without each other's company.
Finding a friend that was lost is a gift. And what are the odds really? I mean, Millie claims that she really was just sort of blog hopping when she discovered mine. And then she noticed my references to my family and my hometown and she found herself wondering if...maybe...just maybe...it could really be the Maria she remembered.
What the hell are the odds?
It's a small world, isn't it? A small blogville....
I'm glad we found our way back to each other, Mills...I never knew how much I missed you until I found you again.