I have been close friends with Christine for 46 years. We met in 1971. What is unusual about this friendship is that we live 3000 miles apart – she in London and me in New York City, then Connecticut. It hasn’t been easy maintaining our friendship through all those miles and all those years. But it has been one of my most cherished and long-lived relationships.
We met when I was in London in 1971. I was 22. We spent a few days together and just hit it off. We wrote to each other regularly when I returned home. We even planned a six-month bus trip across the U.S. starting in April of 1972.
On February 11, 1972, my 88-year-old grandfather was hit by a truck in New York City. Within twenty-four hours, he was brain-dead. But he stayed alive, technically, for six more weeks. He died on March 26, 1972. My mom went into heart failure from the stress. In addition, my grandfather had left his considerable estate in a state of total chaos. I decided to stay home to help my Mom and Grandma recover and put grandpa’s financial and legal affairs in order.
Christine went on the planned trip without me. She stayed with me for a week at the beginning and a week at the end of her travels. That solidified our connection. We stayed in touch by mail after she returned to England.
In 1974, my fiancée, Larry, and I went to England and France on our pre-wedding honeymoon (it’s a long story). We spent time in Bath, England, with Christine and her fiancée, Jeremy, or Jay. Larry and I were married in September of 1974 and Christine and Jay were married in December. We became a foursome until Larry and I separated in 1998.
Christine and Jay had their first child in 1979 and I had mine in 1980. As our families expanded, each adding a daughter, we saw each other every year or year and a half, either in England or in the U.S. Our kids grew up together and view each other, to this day, as extended family.
When our kids were two, six, seven, and eight, all of us rented a large canal boat (which is like a narrow, steel houseboat), and drove around the countryside of England for a week. It was a memorable vacation, one of many trips we’ve taken together as couples and with our children, throughout the years.
In some ways, I feel closer to Christine and her family than I do to my local friends. That’s because when we do spend time together, it’s long, consolidated periods of time, usually spent in each other’s homes. I know what her kids like for breakfast (dry cereal, no milk for her son). She knows where everything is in my kitchen. Living together is a bonding experience, especially with young children. It secures emotional ties on a different level than having dinner with neighborhood friends.
My mother also doted on Christine and her children. She became a part of their lives too and the kids called her their ‘American Grandmother’.
We have been to each others’ big family events, on both sides of the Atlantic; a Bat Mitzvah and two weddings in the states, including mine to Tom in 2002, and two weddings in London. I’m Facebook friends with Christine’s daughter-in-law and see photos of her grandchildren all the time. Christine and I still talk on the phone and via email regularly these days. I’m sure that will continue forever.
We don’t share day-to-day memories through the years. We didn’t regularly pick up kids at school together or have girls’ night every month. Yet the memories we share and the ties we’ve forged have been strong, deep, and lasting. Also enriching and rewarding. Christine is the closest thing to a sister I’ve ever had and I’m forever grateful she is in my life, even long-distance.