When I was 14, I moved to Torreon, Mexico to study my sophomore year of high school with the Rotary International program. This included living with three families during the year, and oh — learning Spanish. (Yep. If you’re a childhood friend, you are tired of hearing of Mexico. I’m sorry. I’m still talking about it.) I have no idea how my parents had the guts to leave me behind with a family they’d known for two days other than perhaps my mother really, really needed a break from her teenage daughter.
The third family I lived with to finish the school year was the Mijares. Barbara and I had become friends at school; we swam together on the high school team and had many classes together. We also spent many, many weekends in her tiny car cruising, eating cups of elote and gossiping about boys — as high school girls did at the time. Barb was instrumental in my education of Spanish and my survival of a year away from home. Like a big sister, she wasn’t shy to tell me when to shape up, or when my much more liberal American behavior was inappropriate for the conservative Catholic environment in which I was trying to conform.
One day, likely tired of my babbling, she sat on my chest with another girlfriend and plucked my previously youthful and unwieldly eyebrows into arched submission. I cried. She told me I’d thank her later. I did. Barb taught me things about beauty, manners and grace that were simply different versions from what I’d learned at home. Truly, not a week goes by I don’t think of some bit of insight she gave me — even if at the time I couldn’t appreciate it.
Barb and I kept in touch over the years through the occasional letter and phone call, but God bless the Interwebs reigniting our friendship. Thanks to Facebook, I’ve been able to reconnect with many of the friends I made that year. They are now scattered across Mexico and the world — those who have been able to find employment elsewhere have. Unfortunately, the sweet town of Torreon with its cathedrals, parks, squares and Rio de Janiero-inspired Christ on the mountain, has become yet another Mexican city embroiled in cartel violence and corruption.
And so, Barbara — with her husband and children — now lives in San Antonio, Texas, just minutes from my parents. Imagine my delight last weekend when my friend walked into the restaurant and we embraced. Within moments we were back into our gossipy sing-song Spanish groove, catching up for many lost years. Her children are adorable and her husband is someone I would have ordered for her out of a catalog. The joy in seeing her doing so well and having created such a beautiful family is unparalleled.
There is nothing sweeter in life than picking up a friendship 15-plus years after you’ve set it down, without missing a step.