Today was our annual visit with Jessica, Jake, Julia, and, this year, Lydia! What a wonderful tradition this visit has become. I will post more pictures from my 22 year love affair with Jess when I get home tomorrow. We met in the summer of 1986 as Petty Officers at Cape Cod Sea Camps. We were fast friends, immediately inseparable. When that summer was over we launched a prolific career as pen pals. Jess was in Providence, and I was in London. It was a big ocean but we sent pages and pages of writing across it, sharing all of the deep secrets and the mundane details of our lives.
There was a falling out that neither of us can recall the cause of and the letters and conversations stopped for years. Jess stopped coming to camp and I continued. Years passed and I always remembered this long-lost, beloved friend. Thankfully, blessedly, CCSC worked its magic and Jess returned in the summer of 1993. We were randomly assigned as co-counselors in cabin 18. I’ll never forget the moment Jess pulled up with her mother and father in their Saab. I remember this deep sense of just knowing that it was she who would emerge, with crates of Indian print shirts and years of stories bottled up to share.
What a magic summer that was! We reconnected and have never stopped talking. That was the summer that Jessica was realizing she was in love with Jake, now her wonderful husband of 9 years. We proceeded to be bridesmaids in each others’ weddings (photos to come when I get home) and then we gave birth to our daughters 12 weeks apart to the day.
Julia was born on 8/3/2002 and Grace followed on 10/26/2002. Jess was the first person I called when I discovered – bewildered, terrified, confused – that I was pregnant. Right as Grace was born tremendously bad news was visited on Jess and her family. I remember when Jess, Jake, and Julia came to Boston when Grace was 2 weeks old, and Julia was 14 weeks old. Jess and I were individually and collectively shell-shocked with bad news (hers far more legitimate than mine). That day is both searingly vivid and incredibly blurred in my memory. The months and years that followed were not easy for Jess and Jake. We did have a few – too few, but very important – visits. Always we photographed the girls. Always we kept talking.
To this day Jessica remains one of the absolute cornerstones of my life. She is one of the very few people who have taken up residence in the always-forever-and-no-matter-what corner of my heart. She and I vibrate on the same frequency. We are drawn to the ocean, we both have moods that rise and fall with the tides, we are each inclined towards melancholy. We both find great solace in words, have many friends but truly trust very few, basically prefer not to be physically touched, and adore chocolate.
Whenever we are together we are instantly back to where we were, but each time we see each other there are also new revelations. Today’s discovery was our shared fragility about overstimulation – too much noise, physical contact, spicy food, or strong smells sends us both over the edge (this is part of what I believe places me on the edge of the aspbergers spectrum).
22 years of history have brought us here, and I look forward to the next 22 and beyond. I don’t have history like this with very many people, and though we see each other rarely Jess is never far from my thoughts. We walk together, despite living hundreds of miles apart. My friendship with Jess is solid and real: I feel her life pulsing beside mine, feel a deep sense of obligation and dedication to her and her entire family, and know in my core that she’ll stand by me no matter what.
All I can say, Jess, is thank you.
This poem has always made me think of you, and of us, and of those summers in Brewster:
People Who Live
From At the Edge of the Body, Erica Jong
People who live by the sea
They copy the curves of the waves,
their hearts beat with the tides,
& the saltiness of their blood
corresponds with the sea.
They know that the house of flesh
is only a sandcastle
built on the shore,
that skin breaks
under the waves
like sand under the soles
of the first walker on the beach
when the tide recedes.
Each of us walks there once,
watching the bubbles
rise up through the sand
like ascending souls,
tracing the line of the foam,
drawing our index fingers
along the horizon