Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
* * * * *
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
* * * * *
- Robert Frost
A while back, I was talking with an old friend on the phone when she mentioned that one of the characters on a popular TV show looked like me. I was flattered, but puzzled. Why was she seeing me in an actress over 30 years my junior?
And then it dawned on me – my friend, who lives 3000 miles from me, still pictures me as I was not just 30 years, but, if truth be told, 40 years ago. Sure, we have seen each other every couple of years since I moved away from New Jersey, the place where our friendship began, but her enduring image of me is apparently carried forth from the few years in our late teens and early twenties when we developed our friendship and shared our lives.
I miss her.
I am well aware of all that I gained by moving to the Pacific Northwest over 40 years ago. The benefits have been varied and many. I live in an area of unmatched natural beauty. I met my husband here, as well as the former husband who is the father of my fabulous daughters, and this was a great place to raise those daughters. I have developed deep and life-affirming friendships. In truth, I believe that, for a number of reasons that I need not go into here, I had to move away to grow into my authentic self.
And yet, as I grow older I begin to understand that my decision to move so far away from where I started was not without cost. Certainly when I moved west at age 25, I was not, in Frost’s words, “sorry I could not travel both.” I was ready to move far away. It is also true that, although I did not leave with the idea of staying forever—it was only going to be for a few years while I went to school, I have never gone back, except to visit.
Yesterday, while listening to Carole King’s song, So Far Away, I thought to myself, "Isn't that the truth. No one stays in one place anymore." Then it occurred to me that I had no cause to complain, given that it was I, not my friends or family, who had moved so far away. My temporary move west had somehow turned into a lifetime as I put down roots, made friends, and learned to love this place.
And so, 40 years on, I pause to contemplate what I left behind. There is family, of course—my brothers live in New Jersey and Florida. And then there are the handful of east-coast friends who remain dear to me, despite my seeing them only infrequently. For a long time, the distance did not feel terribly daunting. There were visits and, in the early days, letters and infrequent phone calls, and then, with the advent of cell phones, more frequent phone calls, and, most recently, Skype and Facetime talks. As the years pass, though, I feel the distance more keenly. I realized during my last two trips east, where years of updates were packed into days, what a loss it has been not to have had these friends and family members close by as I have made way through adulthood. And it also crossed my mind that the day will come when long plane trips will become more difficult or even impossible.
So this has been the cost of the move that has otherwise been good for me in every way -- my geographical distance from family and friends. My older brother is the only living person who has known me since I was born, and he and my younger brother are the only living people who shared my family of origin with me. No one else has those memories—both good and bad.
And then there is the loss of proximity to my oldest friends. The one who has known me since we were seven. The one I have known since junior high. The ones I met in my late teens and early 20s. Some of my current friends have known me for a very long time. These are the friends with whom I shared my entry into adulthood, the childrearing years, the working years, and with whom I will share whatever it is that lies ahead. If I had not moved west, these friends would not grace my life. I love them, and cannot imagine my life without these friendships.
Still, we do not replace friends, we just add to them. As the years have passed I have come to value those who knew me when I was a girl and a very young adult. We shared the years when everything lay ahead of us, the years of riding bikes around the neighborhood and talking about boys, the years when everything looked shiny and new. We shared the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Beatles, the Kennedy assassinations and the moon landing. And for the continued sharing of that history with friends so far away, I am forever grateful.
So, thank you to the friend who was able to see the long-ago me in a young actress. And thank you to all of the friends, both old and new, who have seen, and continue to see, me through.
I am truly blessed.