Two old friends are in town this week, for totally different purposes, and from totally different eras of my life.
One got married in a religious ceremony in Israel, maybe about six years ago (more like eight???).
The other got married in Montreal, probably about twenty-two years ago, in a Wiccan handfasting ceremony.
I was never that close with her, but admired her strength of character and the self-assured way she approached everything in life. Not a tall woman, she always seemed larger-than-life, far older than the one or two years ahead of me she'd been in school. Okay, yes, it was a crush... a huge one. I wanted to be like her in every way, but the truth always was, I was like her in no way except we were both loud-mouthed Jewish women.
Except I wasn't loud-mouthed in those days, and really am not still, at least, not until you get to know me, or read my blog.
Also, she had a major hip deformity. I definitely thought that made it bashert that se should be friends because (I know this is reaching here) I was born with a... minor hip deformity. Still have it. My left hip clicks a little when I do a developpé in ballet (so I don't take ballet - problem solved). Also, I walk crooked and my shoes wear out unevenly.
Anyway, whether this short pushy Jewish pagan woman and I were meant to be friends or not, I definitely wanted to see what was involved in a Wiccan handfasting ceremony, but the problem was, I was living with her ex-boyfriend at the time. She was so mad at me when we started going out, and wouldn't talk to me and tried to turn it into a whole big high-school whatever, and finally I wrote her a note. I think it said, and I quote, and cover your ears, folks, because this was a LONG time ago, "I really admired you, so get off yourself and f*** you." Which somehow broke the ice and she was all nice again and we used to stay at her place whenever we went to Montreal after that.
So when I found out about the wedding, I went by myself and didn't tell her I was coming. Just hopped on a bus and then wandered the streets of Montreal because - doh! - Montreal is a big city and, well, because I didn't RSVP, or even communicate with the happy couple in any way that I wanted to come to their wedding, I didn't get to go. I found an occult shop and bought a deck of tarot cards. I bought some bagels. I think I stayed at the Y that time, but I don't know. I didn't stay at their house or contact them in any way afterwards. Just went home.
I missed the wedding. But we were never close, and whatever. I think I was hoping for a psychic invitation or something passive-aggressive like that. Or that I'd just arrive in town and know where the wedding was. (look for the big sign reading Wiccan Handfasting Hall!)
I didn't know. I never went. We drifted apart and she ended up in the US and I haven't seen her in over twenty years, though, interestingly, her brother (my brother's age) became frum and got married; we used to see him at a shul we went to for a while.
The other friend... is different.
She was an FFB tomboy of 12 when I met her, just recently bas-mitzvahed and into baseball and sports of all kinds. That was a few months before YM was born, so almost 16 years ago; she's my sister Abigail's age. Her best friend was a non-Jewish girl across the street, and they did almost everything together - except go to school, obviously. Despite her beauty and awkward grace (what 12- or 13-year-old is perfectly graceful?) I wondered how she'd ever find her way in the frum world.
For a few years, I watched her grow up, and then somehow, we became friends, and for a while when I was single, I was more dependent on her than almost anyone else. She used to pick YM up from kindergarten and drive him to daycare - on her lunch break from high school. She babysat the kids all summer one year, every day, in her home: amazing. And she grew up beautiful and capable and left me in awe of the whole frum-girl thing and scared of how I'd do as a parent without her.
But she did go away, she left for seminary in Israel when Elisheva was about three, and stayed a year and then another year, and then she was engaged. I knew she'd probably want to get married in Israel, and hadn't even thought of going for her older sister's wedding. But her wedding, I promised myself, I would go for.
Except I didn't. I didn't even try.
Maybe I didn't know what I know now, which is that distance is not an obstacle. Money is NOT an obstacle.
I chickened out; it was too far, too much money.
And I'd left... if not left yiddishkeit, left frumkeit, partly, for a while. And she'd cried, and I guess maybe we decided we didn't know each other anymore. Me because this person I'd thought of as a friend was crying because my socks were too short, and her because this person she'd looked up (me) to had let her down.
How was I supposed to know she looked up to me? What the heck kind of role model, spiritually or otherwise, is an unsteady single struggling working BT mom?
So maybe on some level, I didn't want to go. Because I couldn't be honest about the person I was, and she didn't really want to see the person I was, or help me figure out what kind of person I ought to become. Except she knew I ought to go up. "If you're not going up, you're slipping down."
I have seen a couple of times now that if you really NEED to be somewhere, money isn't going to stop you. Distance isn't going to stop you. We got to Calgary for Jeremy's funeral. We got to Israel because my father needed me to go. I got to Toronto for his funeral, a couple of days later.
Money and distance shouldn't have stopped me from getting to her wedding.
She's never asked why I didn't come, but if it was now - I would go.
Not to Montreal, but to Israel... to stand up in any way I could for this person who'd meant so much to me.
And now, she's grown into a wonderful, beautiful Jewish woman, a mother of four, who may not be as brazen on the outside as the one I admired in high school, but who is undoubtedly far, far stronger and more certain of who she is on the inside.
I sure hope I get to spend time with her while she's in town.
As for the other old friend... well, I made her an offer of coffee on facebook. But nobody from facebook ever follows through, so I'm not expecting much.