I’m a New Yorker through and through.  But though I’m native to the Big Apple, I grew up in California.

While it never felt like home, I’m proud that I’ve managed to maintain friendships with a few people from my adolescence in the City of Angels.  We may never see each other in person, but each of them holds a special place in my heart.

There’s Stuart, with whom I bonded immediately in Mrs. Stern’s 10th grade English class because we had the same dictionary.  Decades later, I still have it and think of him every time I look at it.  I also have all of the letters he wrote me when we were in college and he was studying abroad in Spain.  It’s fun to read those letters now, all full of dreams and so wide-eyed at the world.  Now married with three kids, our letters have morphed into emails we send each other on birthday and holiday milestones during the year.  They always make me happy.

Then there’s Melanie, with whom I reconnected on Facebook.  She was my friend throughout my junior high school years, from 7th to 9th grade.  I remember her as vivacious, kind, and a free spirit.  She was a theater kid, always performing and lighting up whenever she talked about it.  I love knowing that she is still a singer as an adult, affirming that childhood dreams can carry over to adulthood.   We sometimes comment on our social media posts, and I love knowing that my sweet tween-age friend is still in my life.  Seeing her pictures always reminds me of the girl I used to be.

My 7th grade self was in love with her brother, two years older than us.  I would type Melanie notes in typing class, and I would always end them with, “P.S. – Say hi to Greg!”  I remember the first time he said hello to me I thought, “Well, my life is now complete.”  I laugh when I think of how boy crazy I was back then.

And there’s Floriza, who I met in high school.  Like Stuart, we also studied in the same English class.  I just remember her as a constant presence, calm and funny and very smart.  She still is.  I moved away when I was 16, but in those days before the internet, we stayed in touch with long letters about our lives.  To this day, she’ll send me a postcard from wherever she’s traveling in the world.  I love getting messages from Peru, New Zealand and other far reaches of the globe.  As she moved into adulthood, her new friends began to call her Riza, but I, much like an immigrant mother, still call her the name is knew her as when we were girls.

After I moved away, she sent me a gift she made in wood shop – and how can you not love a girl who held her own in wood shop class? Whenever I need a little inspiration, I just look at this.

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What beautiful grace there is in having people in my life who knew me before any of us were fully formed, when we were innocent and wise enough to believe that dreams can come true.  These are the people who remind me, just by their presence, that we still have our whole lives ahead of us.

I am grateful for them.

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