We are gregarious beings, or to put it more bluntly, social animals, which is not the same as party animals. At home, we have siblings trust upon us. Beyond home, we make friends to communicate, to share, to confide on. In office, we interact with colleagues, consult with each other, and use them as sounding board.
Some are childhood friends whom we part company with later on in pursuit of mutual dreams. Some are bosom friends, comrades in arms so to speak, laboring under the same roof for years.
There is no gathering that does not adjourn, according to one popular Chinese saying, literally translated. As we pass through different phases of our life, primary schools, secondary schools, high schools, colleges, the university of hard knocks, we make a succession of friends. Some seem to have vanished into thin air and never to be seen again. Some remain on email contact, for a while, but soon other priorities surface and the link is severed.
Some friends are destined to be reunited, the circle of life turning in its own mysterious way. Such is the vagary of life’s revolving door that one seldom knows who enters and who exits. And if by chance we bump into each other, it adds that much verve, that much buoyancy, that much bounce, to our life that may seem leaden at times.
I have had two relatively long sojourns in US, both times in a campus environment. On both stints, my wife was with me. Since we stayed in family housing, she got to know a lot of other grad students or their stay-home wives, the friendship forged with some of them having blossomed into lasting ties.
Upon completion of each of my academic studies, we had to leave for home half way around the world. It so happened, actually it is by design, that the two universities that I have graduated from are located on opposite coasts: one on the west (1987), and the other one on the east (1995). So we have made two sets of friends.
While in Malaysia, there were sporadic letter exchanges with some of these friends, but the contact was tenuous at best.
Then in December 1999, my wife made her first return to the US west coast, San Francisco to be precise. There we met up with an old friend, Judy Lou, whom we last saw in 1987. Judy has stayed back in US so that her three children could go to school there while her husband returned to his teaching post in Taiwan after his graduation. It was fortunate that we still had her telephone number, thus making our reunion of sort possible.
She invited us to visit her home where we stayed for a week, a gracious host throughout. It was at her home that we went through the Millennium threshold that in hindsight seemed more hype than anything else.
Then we moved to Tampa three years ago, and the first thing my wife did was to call her and reestablish contact. Then she moved from San Francisco, actually El Cerrito, to around Vancouver, Canada. But she and my wife continued to talk over the phone now and then, until this year.
We flew to Portland for our D’s wedding three days before the Chinese New Year and Judy was scheduled to drive to Seattle to pick up her husband who was due to fly in the next day from Taiwan. On the night before, she had called to inform that if her husband felt up to it, she might just drive all the way to Portland with her husband to meet up with us, at the same time delivering the carrot dumplings and CNY cake that she had made herself to us.
The next day, we waited anxiously for her to deliver the good news, that we would be able to meet up with her and her husband, whom we have not seen since 1987. We were even contemplating changing our schedule for the day so that we could drive up to Seattle to save her the trip. The plan was only aborted after we could not contact her (we only have her home telephone number) and we were afraid that we might just miss each other if she decided to drive further on as well.
Then in mid-afternoon, the call came through. She was at a rest stop, on her way to Portland, her husband ensconced by her side. So we drove to our agreed meeting place in North Portland. On the way we were ensnarled in the Friday evening traffic and practically crawled to the meeting place.
Embrace and hug, those are natural forms of acknowledgment when old friends meet, for my wife. For me, it’s always a firm handshake. Judy’s husband, JC, is just as I remember him, the passing years only leaving their marks in his silvery hair. Judy, on the other hand, looked emaciated, the bout of illness that had afflicted her and that she had recovered from, much to our relief, having taken its toll on her normally vivacious character. But the engaging smile and the warm words, were unmistakable.
We chatted for about half an hour, condensing what transpired during the intervening twenty years into our brief exchange. And for this memorable get-together, at the eve of Our D’s wedding, we have this great shot to share. May Buddha bless them.