If you still have connection with a friend from elementary school, or middle/junior high school, or even high school, you have a bond that only those who have this kind of relationship understand. When you meet from time to time, all the time in between melts away, but that time unnoticed brings wisdom, perspective and a deeper understanding of things gone by as well as the present and future that you share. I am fortunate to have this with a friend from my first days at school. I visited her this August and on the way home, I found myself revisitng our lives together. The following poem is the result of that visit and thoughts about this person from way back when.
The Cloth We Wear
Imagine a gypsy in Caffuzzi Hall, her elbows resting
on an embroidered shawl, your palm in her hand,
and she’s telling you that your Bathgate buddy would be lost
only to be found again through an apron and a stool.
That your friend, whose life was saved by your father,
whose elementary school prank was blamed on you,
who danced with you in costume, ribbons in hand
around the Maypole on the great lawn of Fordham University,
a fellow winner in the PS 59 Science Fair,
would be listening to Jazz with you in a town
called Damariscotta, at a library by a river in summer in Maine.
Who, on one Christmas long ago, received a holiday handkerchief
from you, soft as the breeze on a Bronx Tar Beach,
its scalloped, stitched edges in red and green, secured for her
one happy Christmas memory that she could always hold onto,
a gift that said, you are noticed and appreciated with no strings attached,
a hankie that she set out every Christmas for years wondering
what had become of this friend who understood adventure and possibility.
In your presence, she knew peace was possible,
the true love of parents, a safe haven, green, with pocket doors
and dark oak stairs. That the exotic existed in a land
called Wales and beyond, in unfamiliar accents and rhythm
and visage, in clothing, like a dark blue jumper
so like those worn in Catholic school - without the religion
attached to it - instead, a monogram on the front
where corsages were placed on women at Italian celebrations.
Your blonde hair, braided - then twisted, like two little sweet Danish
on each side of your head above each ear - spoke of other worlds
beyond her barred windows so far from the ground,
where dreams had no text or script or open ears to take them in.
We couldn’t have dreamed that this reunion would come to be because
your Mum was sitting on a stool in the corner paint store on Arthur Avenue,
just inside its outer entry built like an apron on a stage, where your friend
would tap dance on its slatted wood while her father bought paint for work.
There sat a regal lady whom your friend called Mrs., along with her last name.
When your friend asked this strangely familiar face for directions,
the resonance of the reply jumped time, and memories rushed like waves
onto The Little Italy of the Bronx. “Are you Mrs. Goldsmith?” she had to ask,
unlikely as it seemed. The silence, before she spoke, was like that
in Caffuzzi Hall on a non-roller rink day. “Are you Mary? Megan’s friend?”
Next, came our museum meeting; the rest is us,
in New York, in Maine, in whatever else is to come.
The fabric of this journey, pricked with choices, twists and turns,
laid out in X’s and O’s, is buffered by the heart of a thimble
in a gypsy’s hands. Our cloth is a cloak of spring ribbons, and
scallops, rick-rack, cross stitches, and primary colors,
monogrammed with friendship and sisterhood, a cloak
that we shall share for the rest of our lives.