Saturday morning I relaxed and chatted with Courtney over a cup of coffee, took Daisy for a walk, ran to the grocery store to pick up essentials for Day Three’s brunch and then I headed out on my own to meet Staci at the Annapolis mall at 2 p.m.
“I’m really nervous,” I admitted to Courtney, while stalling in the time before I needed to walk out the door.
And I was… I mean, aside from meeting up for coffee once about three years ago, I hadn’t talked to Staci in quite some time and much had happened in the meanwhile. Between the two of us, there is quite a bit of history, and I had no idea how the meet-up was going to go. Would we talk about the past? How different would we be? How similar? Would it be easy, or would we have to navigate through really weird silences? Would we inadvertently stumble across old wounds, or had we both healed up sufficiently on our own?
I made it all the way to Annapolis from Alexandria without taking a wrong turn or getting turned around, and managed to stalk a woman walking out of Nordstrom’s to her parking space and get my signal turned on before anyone else lined up on the other side — no small feat in the Christmas shopping craziness that starts in the weeks preceding Thanksgiving!
I recognized Staci from across the store. Thanks to Facebook updates I knew she’d recently chopped her hair off, but even still, neither of us look drastically different than we did in college. She was chatting on the phone, eyes searching the store for me. I waved, she smiled, and we gave each other a hug.
There was a purpose for meeting at the mall — I needed jeans and she needed to spend some of her coveted not-working time shopping for anything and everything she doesn’t normally have the time to look for. We stopped into a few stores, chatting throughout, and then decided to slip into McCormick & Schmick’s for a late lunch since neither of us had really eaten.
It was sitting down in front of a plate of crab dip and salad entrees that we really got to talk, to catch up. She told me about how she met her husband and about her job as a lawyer in the narcotics division of the States Attorney’s Office of Baltimore City. We caught each other up on what was going on with our different family members, and with each of us as individuals. We did not dredge up the past to either offer explanations or apologies — we simply used this day and the conversation to move forward.
It was difficult because in so many ways I could not help but feel like I KNEW this person I was walking through the mall with, and sharing a meal with. There may have been many years between this day and the last time I drove up to Baltimore for a weekend of drinking, shopping and watching movies at Staci’s apartment, but feelings of familiarity shortened that time-chasm and I had to consciously remind myself that I could make no assumptions based on what I thought I knew, or remembered.
But even despite the slight tendency towards caution and the carefulness that escorted our conversation, it was easy to spend time with Staci again — we gave each other opinions on clothes tried on, we lamented about having curvy figures and agreed on what fashions to stay away from. But most important, perhaps, was the fact that we laughed a lot, and I think we both came to realize that it didn’t have to be quite so awkward to feel comfortable around each other.
Time slipped by much faster than either of us realized, and soon it was almost 9 p.m.! I had to get back to Courtney’s to prep the baked french toast casserole for Sunday’s brunch, and while in the parking lot Staci actually got a called into work. In our seven hours together, we’d accomplished our shopping goals — I scored two pairs of jeans and, using some gift cards from her wedding, and Staci managed to walk out of Macy’s with two gorgeous suits for $30!
But most importantly, we accomplished the task of sweeping several years and a load of baggage under the rug, of establishing the groundwork for a new friendship to hopefully form. We parted in the parking lot with promises to get together again soon — perhaps a holiday party, or a tour of her new home. Instead of feeling nervous about meeting her husband, I’m actually looking forward to it!