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The Sanka Connection.

Just so you know, this story is not about coffee. It’s about the random human connections that brighten our days and keep us going.

Sanka

The backstory: I took Michael to see a doctor a few weeks ago; we finished up around lunchtime, and he asked if I could take him to a local diner. We ordered an egg salad platter to share (one scoop each of egg salad, potato salad and coleslaw – Michael’s idea, not mine). I commented to several people later in the day that I thought it was funny that my 5th grade son orders like a 60-year-old woman, and that all he needed to go with it was a black coffee.

That afternoon, Michael had an appointment for physical therapy. He and I were chatting about our lunch with one of the employees and the woman she was working on at the next table from where Michael was. We started talking about his 60-year-old taste in diner food, and the patient suggested that Sanka might be a better beverage choice. This evolved into a discussion about Sanka (which, if you don’t know, is a brand of instant decaf coffee, and in the dark ages of the late 1900s, was the only decaf available. It was also a favorite of the 60 and up set). We wondered if it was still around.

So yesterday, we returned to physical therapy for another appointment. And we found out that yes, Sanka is still being made. Because the patient we had been chatting with found an individual packet somewhere, brought it to physical therapy to give to someone to pass it along to Michael and me (which was really confusing to the person who hadn’t been privy to our original conversation and had no idea why a patient was giving a packet of decaf coffee to pass along to another patient — a 10-year-old boy).

At any rate, I had a good laugh with the employee who had been there when we’d been talking about it. And I was astounded that this other patient had remembered our conversation, and thought to bring this little packet with her to her next physical therapy appointment.

These are the random connections with people that make me smile – the Sanka Connections. We can choose to exist in the little bubbles of our own lives, or we can choose to cultivate the experiences that we have with the many people around us, however frivolous they may seem at the time. It’s usually worth it.

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Old friends

I chatted today with one of my oldest friends. She lives on the other side of the country; we don’t talk often, and I see her even less frequently.  Anne and I met in kindergarten, and despite the fundamental differences in our personalities and interests, she was probably the person outside of my family who I spent the most time with during my childhood.

I started thinking about the significance of old friends today after Anne and I hung up. I was telling her how much my son Michael misses sports, as he’s recovering from ACL repair, and she asked if it was okay for him to swim. I told her that yes, it was, but that I’d asked him, and he didn’t really want to go to the pool. And besides, I told her, he’s really not a great swimmer.

Without missing a beat, Anne said, “Oh, so THAT’S something you passed along to him!” She’s absolutely right. I can swim, but I didn’t learn how to swim until much later than all of my peers, and it’s something I’m not particularly skilled at. At camp, my friends (including Anne, by the way) passed swim test after swim test, learned to dive, and passed lifeguarding classes. I never made it past the beginner swim group (which was obvious to everyone, because back in the day, at our Girl Scout camp, we wore colored swim caps that indicated which level we were in, and I spent summer after summer wearing that stupid red cap).

What struck me was that a little detail that most people don’t know about me was right at the front of Anne’s mind, decades later.

This is what’s so great about old friends. They share the little secrets that seemed so important when we were kids — the things that don’t matter so much now, but helped shape who we’ve become as adults. I’d bet Anne remembers who my first crush was. I know I remember hers. I know that her elbow had a handful of tiny pebbles in it, because she’d fallen (off her bike, I think), and the scrape was never completely cleaned out. Anne knows that for whatever reason, in 5th grade, I volunteered to play the baritone horn in band. And that because she was more than a few inches taller than me, stronger and more athletic, I would carry her flute home, and she would carry home my baritone.

Anne knows that I was a nerdy perfectionist. I know she was a much better athlete than I was (mostly, I think, because I was never interested in playing sports as a kid). I know she had a paper route (because I took it over for her one week when she was on vacation, and gained a new respect for her when I experienced how difficult it was). But we were both good students who loved to read. We rode our bikes, made prank phone calls, and watched episodes of the Brady Bunch.

I only remember getting into one fight with Anne. We were about 10 or 11, and as was the style, we were wearing tube tops, which at the time, neither of us had any business wearing. I can’t remember what the fight was about. But it’s the only fight I’ve ever had that turned physical. Let me just put it this way: you can’t be an adolescent girl wearing a tube top and throw a punch without things getting weird. I remember the fight ending when we noticed our tube tops were around our waists, and we started laughing.

Now that’s something only an old friend can appreciate.

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What happened?

I had one of those experiences this afternoon that hasn’t happened in a long time.  And it made me realize that as much as we grow and mature, and move past certain phases of our lives, that some things feel no less icky as accomplished, evolved 40-somethings as they did as insecure teenagers.  At least that’s the case for me.

So, this afternoon, I bumped into an old friend from the next town over, who I hadn’t seen in probably 8 or 9 years.  Why had I not seen her in so long, you may be wondering?  Well, that’s the thing.  I have absolutely no idea.

We met at one of those classes you take your toddler to, so they can learn to appreciate art or music, or something (and the classes are usually weekly, which usually ensures that you’ll find time to shower and make yourself presentable at least once a week if you happen to be staying home with the aforementioned toddler) .  Matthew was probably about 2, and her daughter was a few months younger.  We immediately hit it off, and would spend time together after these classes, and have playdates with the kids at other times.  Eventually, we got together with our husbands, and they seemed to hit it off too.  We had our second children (both boys) about six months apart.

And then, at some point before Michael turned one, about two years after we met, she stopped calling.  Stopped returning my calls.  I can take a hint pretty quickly, so after a few times, I gave up and stopped calling too.  And didn’t see her again until today.

And while it’s not like I was sitting around waiting for a call from her, I can’t say it didn’t periodically cross my mind.  Had I said something offensive?  Did she find me annoying?  Did she not like my kid or my husband?

When I bumped into her this afternoon, we immediately recognized each other, stared awkwardly for a second or two, and then chatted briefly.   I didn’t have Matthew with me, so I showed her a picture.  We talked for a few minutes, and then I left.  And I wondered as I walked away, did I talk too much? Not ask her enough about how things were with her? Maybe that’s what she found bothersome about me in the first place.  It took me to a place I don’t like to go.

I like to think that I’m one of those people who can tell myself, “It’s okay;  not everyone is going to like me.”  Because truthfully, when someone doesn’t like us, it means that there’s something about what we say, what we do, or who we surround ourselves with that this person just doesn’t enjoy.  And frankly, that stings at least a little bit.

This is all probably a good reminder for me, as I raise children who will at some point need learn the tough lesson that no matter how fabulous I think they are, there will sometimes be people who don’t like them.  And that hurts.  But we move on, try not to look back, and surround ourselves with the people who embrace our personalities (and the quirks that come along with them), laugh along with us, and walk beside us on this journey.

 

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